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Is our city good to live in or good to visit only?

June 22nd, 2011 · 99 Comments

In our week in Rome, we had lunch with a friend of a friend, an Italian who works in government. He’s not originally from Rome, but has been posted there for the past two years.

His assessment of Rome: A nice place to visit, but a hard place to live in. It’s a large city with an abysmal transit system. (Only two real subway lines and a tangle of bus and tram lines haphazardly serving the rest of the city.) Our friend, a senior bureaucrat, abandoned using his car or transit and, like many in Rome, commutes on a scooter.

He did not feel that way about other large cities he’s lived in in Europe, including London. But Rome, to him, is a postcard that does not allow for regular existence.

Vacation travel always prompts thoughts about what it would be like to live in the place where you had such a good time (eating pasta, check; walking around lively, busy streets, people-watching, until 1 a.m., check; visiting markets and churches and monuments, check). Sure, it’s fun when you have all the time in the world. But what would it be like to actually have to get to work every day, pay bills, deal with phone/electrical/rent and so on.

Our friend’s remark reminded me as well of the observation I heard from a young couple I got to know in Paris 35 years ago. They, living in a very chic attic room behind the Rothschild’s mansion on Ile St. Louis, said that Paris was a good city to live in if you didn’t have a lot of money. There were cheap apartments, cheap food, and a way to scrape a living together, as they were doing (he, an American, was a translator of agricultural manuals that I was typing for him; she, French, a restorer of oil paintings).

But it was hard to have an American middle-class life in Paris. That was very expensive and difficult. On the other hand, they felt that it was hard to be poor in big American cities but much easier to be middle class.

So what about Vancouver? I have a feeling that many people who once thought it was a good place to live are beginning to see it as a good place to visit only — stay a week, visit the sites, and then head back to home. The house prices, the sense of the city as a place where the main economic base is the city itself as a spectacle: those give the sense to some that it’s not really a city to live in any more.

I don’t feel that way myself. I’ve lived in the city proper for more than half my adult life. It feels workable to me, a place with neighborhoods and a sense of civic life. But are those of us who feel that way dying out?

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99 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jesse // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Actually I find Vancouver affordable compared to many other cities, as long as you don’t mind renting.

    And honestly, there aren’t that many things to “tour” in Vancouver; it’s pretty on a summer day but it ain’t no London, Paris, or Rome.

  • 2 Todd Sieling // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I make a pretty regular habit of complaining about Vancouver, but at the heart of it is that I think it’s worth complaining about as a place to live.

    While there are problems like economic divide that nobody seems to have a handle on, there are still many spots and ways to have a bit of the ‘good life’ (in the Greek sense, not the consumerist sense). Pockets of people here still get excited around new ideas and then take the steps to make them happen, and when non-commercial opportunities and events open up, there is more than enough demand.

    I sit on the board for Public Dreams, which has been running free public community driven events for many years, and each year we see people wanting more. With our recent initiative to take the Illuminares event to other parts of the city, we often first hear fear that the event’s roots will be lost, then excitement about brightening up other neighbourhoods.

    If Vancouver weren’t a place that’s good to live in, I don’t think that kind of generative energy could survive or thrive in the ways I get to see it happen, even if it is only now and then.

  • 3 olga // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I used to think the former (so much so that I made serious preparations to relocate), but sadly I believe it’s become the latter over past decade IMHO. Now it might be a nice place to retire.

  • 4 Anna // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

    This city is full of wonderful neighbourhoods and fascinating people creating interesting things to do… and the longer I’ve lived here the more vibrant it’s become and the more secrets I’ve discovered–things I couldn’t have known about in a week.

    I think that as long as you’re willing to forgo the usual dream of a single detached family home with a yard for your family (kind of a bummer, but not the end of the world), you can have a nice life here.

  • 5 Tiktaalik // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Similar to that Paris example, Vancouver is both expensive and cheap. I’ve read many online discussions where folks complain about how expensive Vancouver is, and then go on to mention the skyhigh rent of their Yaletown condo and expense of nearby popular bars. In contrast one can live pretty cheaply by living in East Van, biking to a park and having a picnic.

    Certainly there are cities with cheaper rent than Vancouver, but the affordability of a city is still directly related to what your lifestyle is.

    I think that young folks in Vancouver can live cheaply, but living the stereotypical American middle class life (kids, dog and a house with garage) would be extremely expensive in Vancouver.

  • 6 Ron // Jun 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Agreed – it all depends on your expectations:
    whether you’re trying to keep up with the Jones (continually renovating your home/condo or trading up for a newer model) or willing to “settle” for what’s adequate.

  • 7 Glissando Remmy // Jun 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    The Thought of The Day

    ‘Vancouver was a very good place to live in, until one day, when the Yeehaa! Vision wagons, came to town.’

    I’ll go even further. Canada was a good place to live in…until one day when high ranked Chinese Communist party officials, high echelon administrators of Sweatshop Factories catering to Major Western Brand names , and hardened criminals dealing in drugs and human trafficking… started to move large amounts of cash here, embezzling cca 14-15 Billion dollars that now the Chinese Government is looking for, in one of their biggest monetary recovery effort ever. With a bit of luck you’ll be seeing less BMW’s on the streets of Vancouver, but don’t hold your breath.

    Hey, what am I saying. Vancouver has become a household name on the Riot circuit. Yeah, baby. Before I drove my family to the airport this past Saturday, I asked my friends in Paris what do they want from Vancouver… smoked salmon, maple syrup, Canadian flag T-shirts, miniature totem poles, what…

    You know what they said?
    To send all the local papers for Thursday 16th and Friday 17th of June 2011. Great souvenirs in Paris… two 24 Hours and one Metro… free dinner at Les Deux Magots.
    Who knew? The Chinese Magots in Paris, too.
    Now that…is what I call a riot. :-)

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy…one day, though, I’ll visit.

  • 8 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    “It feels workable to me, a place with neighborhoods and a sense of civic life. But are those of us who feel that way dying out?”


    We may be thinning at the hair line, Frances, but hopefully keeping the undertakers at bay!

    I’ve been doing due diligence on the urbanism of our city this summer with the Historic Quartiers study. We’ve discovered what I knew all along: for those living within the footprint our historic neighbourhoods or quartiers—those places settled before the automobile—walking is still the primary form of transportation.

    You can get from Oppenheimer Park to downtown in 20 minutes and have a very good time along the way. But would you live there?

    If you squint a bit you can still see traces of a balance that was achieved between the built form and the resulting urban environment. The general disposition of the parts feels right for supporting a high level of social mixing.

    If your government official lived within walking distance of Piazza Colonna his complaints would have turned to wonder. And his plate of pasta might be and inch deeper without noticeable injury to his waistline.

    We can understand the impacts of traffic policy more readily because we can count the cars. We often hear it said with pride that “we stopped the freeway in the 1960’s”. Indeed. But my group added VanMap counts for daily traffic on Powell, Cordova, Hastings, and Prior/Venables as 94,000 vehicles per day.

    Research from San Francisco suggests that Hastings carries 3x more traffic than optimal for arterials; Venables/Prior 4x residential maximums; and Powell/Cordova 2x acceptable limits.

    Whether or not our city is good to live in ultimately hinges on making good policy, and reversing the bad stuff.

    A second injury taking away more livability was perpetrated on the Historic Quartiers at more or less the same time as the freeway plan. East of Gore Avenue, as far as Nanaimo Street, industrial zoning was imposed on the newest residential pockets building just prior to the depression.

    City policy still looks at this area as an employment base. It borders the port and the railway and—in a manner of speaking—it is “outside” the downtown. However, new development visible today consists of storage warehouses for downtown condo dwellers living in spaces too small to hold all their stuff.

    Yet, these lands are within a 10 minute walk or less from Hastings Street and within easy reach of the downtown job, entertainment and shopping districts.

    In Vancouver, as in other places, the livability of our city is hostage to a host of old city policies and the inertia needed to change them. It remains to make the case for implementing transit, shaping residential intensification, and building neighbourhood places that can support social mixing, as the means of making Vancouver a city good to live in.

    If you want to experience build out that has high density and human scale, Rome is not a bad place to visit. If you want experience surface LRT taming the car and shaping growth, spend a few days in Portland, Oregon.

    We don’t have one place to visit where all the pieces fit together. Although we are all recovering from the same pandemic, we are slow to realize that traffic is only the most visible of a complex of interrelated problems known collectively as “urbanism”.

  • 9 Morry // Jun 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    “it ain’t no London, Paris, or Rome.”
    But i’ll take Vancouver as a place to live in over those cities.

    I have spent time in various european cities in the last 15 years. And after 4-5 weeks away I always look forward to coming back to Vancouver.

    It’s so easy here! In every way.

  • 10 Chris // Jun 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I think Vancouver is a better city to live in then to visit. Whenever I have guests visit we spend more time experiencing everyday life in Vancouver then visiting marquee attractions. Biking on the seawall, picnics on the beach, eating at awesome restaurants, going to farmer’s markets, hiking on the north shore. Fun stuff, but not touristy, and part of my everyday life in Vancouver.

  • 11 Agustin // Jun 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Chris, #9:

    Whenever I have guests visit we spend more time experiencing everyday life in Vancouver then visiting marquee attractions.

    Me too. That sounds like a very typical visit with my family from out of town.

  • 12 Stuart Mackinnon // Jun 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    About 10 years ago I was an ESL teacher at downtown college. On weekends I would take my students out on local ‘field trips’ visiting places the tourists rarely have time to see. They always enjoyed the days and thanked me for showing them what they called ‘the real Vancouver’.

    I once heard someone say: “Stay in a place for day-write a book; stay for a week-write an article; stay for a year and live on your memories.”

  • 13 mezzanine // Jun 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    To play devil’s advocate, I see a lot of talk about the stereotypical vancouver lifestyle. with mountains, oceans, seawall, etc.

    For a different viewpoint, I like this quote:

    “It seems to me what makes for great cities in history are not measurements of safety, sanitation or homogeneity but economic growth, cultural diversity and social dynamism. A great city, as Rene Descartes wrote of 17th century Amsterdam, should be “an inventory of the possible,” a place of imagination that attracts ambitious migrants, families and entrepreneurs.

    Such places are aspirational – they draw people not for a restful visit or elegant repast but to achieve some sort of upward mobility.”


    Obviously safety, sanitation and collective identity is important, but this dynamism and relative equality of opportunity is key to livability here in vancity.

    Even if you knew italian, could you make a reasonable life for yourself in rome? what kind of training and job could you get as a non-rich relative outsider? what if you were a divorced female or a visible minority?

    Take another urban environment – tokyo. lots of safety, sanitation and homogeneity, and ask the same questions.

  • 14 Vickie // Jun 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I came at 19 as a war resister and have been here since with the exception of a couple of years in Ontario working on a graduate degree. I visit my family in the eastern US annually and vacation elsewhere as often and as far away as I can afford.

    The first whiff of sea air when I step out of the airport terminal never fails to bring a lump to my throat. I get frustrated by those who have chased some illusive status called World Class City which appears to be code for bland, unrecognizable sameness. But I wouldn’t live elsewhere.

  • 15 HeidiPG // Jun 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Grew up there, lived in Vancouver until I was 37 and still enjoy visiting regularly – but live there again – I really doubt it. Too busy, too much crazy traffic, too many angry people, too expensive, and I just couldn’t go back to that stress.

    Being a visitor gives me the opportunity to spend time visiting those interesting sights I never had time for when I lived there, and I can afford to go when I get there. We miss being close to our remaining family especially as they age, but we are only an hour away by plane.

    So, a happy visitor I will continue to be, but not a resident!

  • 16 Everyman // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    To those who say the dream of a single family home with requisite kids and dogs is dead in Vancouver, I ask: Why?

    Its a question not many people want to answer. The comparative handful of homeless are treated by all levels of government to a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, yet none seem interested in delving into why, in one short decade, the middle class has been so rapidly pushed out of their Vancouver dream.

  • 17 Roger Kemble // Jun 23, 2011 at 4:20 am

    Is our city good to live in or good to visit only? Wow that question needs time and thought . . .

    Canada was a good place to live in…until one day when high ranked Chinese Communist party officials, high echelon administrators of Sweatshop Factories catering to Major Western Brand names, and hardened criminals dealing in drugs and human trafficking… started to move large amounts of cash here, embezzling cca 14-15 Billion dollars that now the Chinese Government is looking for, in one of their biggest monetary recovery effort ever.

    Thanqxz, Glissando @ #6, for that realistic assessment: you could say the city has been bought and skinned.

    My daughter just returned from a week’s vacation in Montreal. With that only a couple of hours away, why on earth would anyone want to visit Vancouver?

    It has even got to the question can we believe the tourist stats? It’s that bad: every one is on the take!

    Of course there are the usual immediate, off the cuff, comparisons, Rome, Portland and other blather, and I am sure those other cities have their equal share of vacuous people offering their equally vacuous opinions but let’s look at the recent live site riot to get an idea, not of the pretty views and store-bought opinions, but of the people of Metro Vancouver!

    . . . Vancouver; it’s pretty on a summer day but it ain’t no London, Paris, or Rome. Jesse @ #1 and that’s for sure!

    Roger’s seats 19,000 and police estimate there were up to 100,000 crowding the live site. So, each one of those spectators has family: a pretty good cross section of Metro’s pop.

    So why would so many people go bananas over hockey? It’s only a game for heaven’s sake! Is it because there is nothing of substance to fill their empty lives? Is the city’s culture so barren?

    I have been present, in other cities, at world cup events. Sure the incessant Vuvuzela buzz can be damn right annoying: but nevertheless quite harmless and after the fútbol every one goes home.

    I wasn’t at the riot but most in the thick of it, evidently were of good families, standing by aiding and abetting: one torching a police car, the other gleefully running off with stolen goods and no doubt many more off camera.

    Oh sure, after the fact guilt drove some to clean up and write apologetic slogans on plywood hoardings: some would say obsequiousness on display.

    But the fact is time served in a mediocre learning institution, buying a new car, 2.5 kids, buying into a life of servitude to one financial institute or another, the ticky-tacky stucco box and lawn, has lost its appeal.

    And what does the city have to offer? Platitudes and nothing!

    My assessment leads me to believe there is nothing, in the city, to live up to, to admire: world-class, views, Paradise NOT! In their bleak and empty lives there are no opportunities, nothing for them to aspire to. So at the first opportunity they let go!

    As of last count there are 210 bloggers on Frances’ other The hockey riots conversation: How did this happen? conversation, seemingly relishing blame, courting, while vigorously denying, political advantage generally showing how mean spirited we can be.

    Who would want to live in Vancouver? Who would want to visit? To me this whole display of mindlessness reeks of mean spirited nastiness.

    No wonder the kids go bonkers . . .

  • 18 mezzanine // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:14 am


    “To those who say the dream of a single family home with requisite kids and dogs is dead in Vancouver, I ask: Why?”

    Apparently, it’s due to embezzling Chinese nationals.

    Time for a link….

    “”This trend is certainly impacting single family housing values in Vancouver-West and Richmond. However, it is not the driving force behind all sales. A number of recent launches reported large numbers of Asian buyers — yet a significant portion of these buyers are actually local residents not foreigners.”

    In the last six months, said the China Daily, Chinese buyers spent $200-million through Colliers’ international property department with most of the money going toward Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

    But all three destinations feature some very expensive real estate. Even if you divide that by three – $66,666,666 per market – that seems like a small piece of the action. The resale market in Vancouver accounted for $2.1-billion of activity – in May alone.

    And there’s no logical reason to split it equally – London’s population is 7.5 million compared to Vancouver’s 580,000. Australia is a whole country.

    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said last week – from Vancouver – that some of the country’s cities need to be watched closely.

    But again, any data about foreign buyers is anecdotal and hardly the stuff to base policy upon. Instead, he’s watching the effect of low interest rates and exuberant buyers.

    “The risk is that expectations become extrapolative, prompting the classic market emotions of fear and greed – greed among speculators and investors, and fear among households that getting a foot on the property ladder is a now-or-never proposition,” he said.””

  • 19 IanS // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Very interesting question.

    I’ve done a fair bit of traveling in Italy and nearby countries and, while there, I frequently vow to myself that I will retire there some day. I love the food, the people, the culture, the food.. Of course, as you say, there’s a big difference between holidaying in a place and actually trying to live there. I might feel differently if I had to get by there on a day to day basis.

    The only city I’ve lived as an adult, other than Vancouver, was London. My recollection – it was some time ago now – was that I absolutely hated it for about three months or so, until I got the rhythm of the place and got beneath the surface a bit. It made a huge difference not feeling like a tourist and I really enjoyed it afterward. Vancouver sure seemed small and quiet when I moved back.

    As for Vancouver, I suspect that those of us who grew up here and have lived here most of our lives really can’t answer that question, as Vancouver is our frame of reference. You really need someone who’s moved here while an adult to provide perspective.

  • 20 MB // Jun 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I originally came from Calgary. I don’t think I need to say more.

  • 21 David Hadaway // Jun 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Longer ago than I care now to mention I lived and worked in Milan. Like London it is a city that takes time to get to know. It’s not a particularly “Italian” city but it has the normal Italian mix of monumental planning interspersed with functioning chaos.

    The mixture makes for a rich life. Feel like a drink, there’s a bar at the end of the block. Problem with the car? There’s an auto shop round the corner. Need a little inspiration? Well on a clear day the view through the marble pinnacles of the cathedral roof across the city to the Alps is breathtaking.

    What Vancouver lacks as city is that combination. There are some fine buildings here but our civic spaces are failures, the library ‘square’ and ‘galleria’ and lost roof garden epitomise to me our our ability to do it wrong at remarkable expense. At the same time we have a planning mentality that does not allow for randomness and serendipity. The law of unintended consequences makes it certain that by attempting to do it ‘right’, that is to say according to the rule book, we will get it wrong. Like a party, if you plan to the last detail it will be a boring flop.

    That isn’t to say, of course, that our city doesn’t have virtues, it has many. However given the social factors that will determine its future it seems unlikely that it will ever be able to reproduce the urbanism of a truly great city.

    We can blame bureaucracy, finance, whatever we wish. Maybe it’s just because we’re not Italian!

  • 22 Agustin // Jun 23, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I originally came from Calgary. I don’t think I need to say more.

    /nod of recognition from a fellow former Calgarian.

  • 23 Christopher // Jun 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    An interesting question to ask is, without the usual talk of “beauty, nature, 2 minute walk to the ocean, biking the seawall, etc” what do we have?

    If that were not here, how many would flee? i was born in Winnipeg and moved here as a child and i often go back to visit family. people often joke they would never live in a city like Winnipeg yet despite its lack of size and style often has more arts and cultural events happening in the city than Vancouver does…and bonus, you can buy a house! this isnt an endoresment for Winnipeg but when me and my wife think of leaving Vancouver the only thing that keeps us here is the ability to live a “urban” lifestyle without being stuck in the city all the time (escaping to third beach, etc)

    I know there are many people in the art, music, etc scene that are trying their hardest to make Vancouver more vibrant and i applaud and support that effort but the city seems hellbent on turning Vancouver into a giant suburb. i wont be surprised when a cactus club opens up on main street or an american eagle on commercial. feels like were headed that way.

    I really like Vancouver but compared to most other cities its not that diverse, exciting or affordable. Right now its home but not sure if it will always be the case. I think a lot of young (ish) adults we know are feeling this way. A lot of our friends have recently moved to Toronto or abroad.

  • 24 Ron // Jun 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    This just occurred to me regarding this question:

    “To those who say the dream of a single family home with requisite kids and dogs is dead in Vancouver, I ask: Why?”

    Would you ask this question of other large urban centres, such as New York, London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong?

    In what densely built urban centre can you buy or expect to buy a single family home on its own lot?

    Locally, KVOS TV is now MeTV and is airing I Love Lucy and the Dick Van Dyke Show – which serves to remind me that in 1950s and 60s NYC, the Ricardos moved to Connecticut to live their single family home dream, and the Petries did so from New Rochelle, NY.

  • 25 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    New study on “Stress and the City”.

    Like Mezz, I like the “busy-ness” of the city, but after duelling ;-) with people on both sides of the political divide on this here site, I like to go to Vancouver’s quieter corners, to clear my head.

    Which is why, as a lifelong resident of this place, I often find myself walking down and around our beautiful and unique “country” area of the city, known as Southlands. Did it last night, in fact.

    Green, green and green, a very pastoral experience. A democratic muni public golf course on one side and a very posh private one one the other, with horses and dogs and few people out and about, in between. You could hear the frogs in sloughs along the roadsides, ribbit-ing back and forth to each other. It’s that quiet.

    The area was, and still is, bucolic, for the most part. Yet, my beloved “Flats”, is changing, fast.

    Ginormous mansions on lovely expansive acreages, with faux duck ponds and huge lawns are cropping up and about the very much more modest houses that dot smaller lots in the neighbourhood. Contrasted against the old, comfortably tatty homes, with slobbering yellow dogs running out front, and mud and manure and paddocks, these McMansions are a jolt.

    And, oddly, no one much seems to be around them, unlike the busy, working “barns” where little girls still come down to ride and muck out stalls. Which makes me think many of the new McMansions may be posing as hobby farms—I think there is a tax break for such set-ups.

    I walked past an “old timer” home down there, one that I knew from my childhood, near where when my parents used to take me pony riding. We’ve all seen them. A modest little two story stucco home, maybe 60 or 70 years old, with architectural touches that qualify it as a Vancouver”character” home for all who love that sort of thing.

    Located on a corner lot that is maybe 50′ long but quite narrow, the house takes up perhaps1/3 of the lot. What distinguishes this house from others nearby that are far “grander”, is the incredible home garden. It has been tended by the same woman, who has lived in that house for at least 30 years.

    When I rounded the corner, on my walk down tlast night, that vast garden was in full, glorious early summer bloom. It was fairly vibrating with plant life, wafting in the gentle breeze. A serious rose garden that is second to none in this city amongst private homes, and long, long, long borders and bed of delphinium, pinks, campanula, and foxglove amongst the flora. A veggie patch rounds out the glorious site.

    I stood out in front , on a perfect summer evening, looking at all this sight, and listening to the perfect sound of near silence. I admit I had a lump in my throat, thinking that one day, this lot, so obviously lovingly, stubbornly and meticulously tended by that old lady in the sun hat, would, in all likelihood and in the not-too-distant-future, meet a typical Vancouver fate: the bulldozer, followed by a “water feature”, fake brick and faux stone.

    And, most tragic of all: far more pavement. And much less garden. This is, indeed, “Vancishing Vncouver”.

    So, I want to thank that lady here, for the many pleasures she has given people like me, over the years, for what she has created by her own hands, in her own yard.

    And the same to all the men and women in our neighbourhoods all over, who have brought us quiet beauty, enjoyment and yes, peace of mind—those little oasis’s that break up the hard edges, the steel, and glass and noise of this city.

  • 26 Glissando Remmy // Jun 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The Thought of The Day

    ‘Mezzanine… in humans (def) – someone caught in between the floors of public opinion; an idling state of mind.’

    mezzanine # 16,
    Despite your ‘writing tone’ (my apologies if I’m wrong), I’ll count you in!
    So you’ll know, usually I never open my mouth before thinking (I’m no Gregor Robertson) of what I am about to say. I also do my own research, and write my own copy, and ran my own slide show (I am no Penny Ballem either).

    I understand where your skepticism comes from… is called ignorance.

    When I wrote the above comment, I wasn’t talking about money that are buying real estate in Canada and North America through official channels and Agencies that print their reports, graphs and predictions quarterly, for all to see and salivate.


    I was talking about the subterranean financial economy, the troglodyte world and not about the rosy, fluffed up ‘best place on Earth’ you live in.


    Since more than 30 years ago, China has become the preferred Job Outsourcing destination for the Western European and North American Corporations. Ever wondered why your Banana Republic (this…is us, BTW) cashmere sweater, costs $50 retail (real price probably $150+) and you might even get it on sale for less $25-30?

    Because it was made in …China…for $10.
    At 15-25 cents per hour in labor and $5-8 in material , packaging, transportation and advertising costs.

    Good deal for the Chinese …officials. and an excellent deal for the Mary Kate’s and Martha Stewart’s of North America. What’s not to like? Doing business in a country with a corrupt to its bony cell government (very much appreciated by our Vision Vancouver & friends, I might add), with no human rights violation laws in place, with huge pollution problems but zero environmental concerns and measures, with no democracy and no free speech, what’s not to like? Everybody gets rich. Well not everybody, all except the ones who deserve it the most.
    The Chinese workers. Period.

    FYI. We don’t get any of those in Canada.
    What we get, is the Creme ala Creme commie apparatchik & relatives, hiding their loot deep in our land, by buying us out. Period.

    I know, it must be hard for them here, away from home, circling the downtown core in their SUV’s, paying one buck and up for a condo at UBC lands, fighting the good fight against the dead spirits and ghosts, not speaking an iota of English…or French and having no intention to try to learn one or the other, away from the law enforcement agencies that are harassing them across the world, and not even being able to open a mere sweatshop anywhere in the Lower mainland…
    ‘Oh, Chinada!
    Our home and native land!’


    ‘Apparently, it’s due to embezzling Chinese nationals.
    Time for a link…’

    Gee, mezzanine, you’ve got me at a disadvantage here, with your article. I should have backed that claim of mine with same, so here, enjoy this one:

    One may always form an educated opinion from reading foreign periodicals, and not only from translated into English language op. pieces. like this one, but hey you wouldn’t be speaking Mandarin or Cantonese now, would you?

    Check this excerpt:

    ‘Media have reported openly before that in the last 30 years, about 4,000 corrupt officials have fled overseas, taking with them roughly 50 billion US dollars, for an average of 100 million yuan each.’ – from Beijing’s ‘Legal Mirror’

    Funny. As it turns out, the $14-15 Billion figure that I’ve got from my French – Spanish source, was in fact the understatement of the day.
    Who knew?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

    Roger Kemble #15
    Thanks. Apparently, we are both… Lost in Translation. :-)

  • 27 mezzanine // Jun 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm


    Thanks for clarifying that your scapegoating was in earnest and not toungue-in-cheek.

    I suppose if we can rid ourselves of the embezzling Chinese nationals, we can return to some sort of idealized past version of ourselves.

    PS. props to spartikus – BBcode xtra rocks!

  • 28 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    We have a HUGE problem with our own “home grown” criminals, in their jacked up, tricked out SUV’s and Ferraris. Driven by guys in tee’s and tatts, who don’t work a 9 to 5 existence.

    And we cleave to this idea that Vancouver is paradise. Where all you have to do to be “fun” and relevent, is run, lemming like, towards all things pro sports : hockey, soccer, football and…MMA!

    This is the “downtown” side of Vancouver that I loathe.

    I need to go out for a walk.

  • 29 Sean Bickerton // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Hi Frances, wish we were there drinking good chianti with you! FYI, I’m working with group of downtown churches to organize:

    A Walk For Peace
    Sunday, June 26, 2011, 2:15 pm

    2:15 pm Assembly at Christ Church Anglican Cathedral (Georgia & Burrard)

    2:30 pm Walk For Peace from Christ Church Cathedral along Georgia St to Larwill Park (Cambie & Georgia)

    3:00 pm Benediction at Larwill Park by Very Reverend Peter Elliott, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral

    3:10 pm Messages of Peace

    3:15 pm Moment of Silence for those Injured during riot

    3:20pm Traditional First Nations Smudge Cleansing Ceremony with Leslie Nelson, Cree-Metis Sundancer, Warriors Against Violence

    The Walk For Peace is meant to accomplish three things:

    * A peaceful response to the violent riot that engulfed our city last week;
    * A taking-back of our downtown public streets and spaces;
    * A cleansing ceremony to purify the ground tarnished by violence.

    I encourage anyone seeking a constructive response to the riot to join us.

  • 30 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm


    That’s a walk we can believe in.

  • 31 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    “At the same time we have a planning mentality that does not allow for randomness and serendipity. The law of unintended consequences makes it certain that by attempting to do it ‘right’, that is to say according to the rule book, we will get it wrong. Like a party, if you plan to the last detail it will be a boring flop.”

    D Hadaway 19

    You had me up to “… a planning mentality that does not allow for randomness and serendipity.”

    After my one stay in Milan I left with the impression that Aldo Rossi’s city is very good, very well, and thank you. We stayed with a Dolce Casa ex-Vancouverity born Milanese who loved her city and was a fabulous fount of information. We could walk for four blocks from there, find ourselves in one of those great but unpretentious urban spaces, mix with the local crowd, and pick up fabulous ice cream. The old orange trams are still performing a fundamental service to the population. And a street like Corso Magenta, address for San Maurizio and the frescos of Bernardino Luini, follower of Leonardo, is a simple but powerful essay on “good” urbanism. We always reference the famous places because there is a greater chance that others will have seen them too.

    “Good” urbanism is there to be had in many many places.

    Now, as to serendipity and randomness… What else have we gotten from a planning culture that worships at the shrine of “the city as organic process”? Problem is, on the one hand, that we have a science for the organic—its called biology—and a working theory in ‘natural selection’. No such things from the School of Organic City Planning. On the other hand, the stuff that is going up all about us are the products of organic planning. One deal at the time, and with total lack of curiosity for the concrete and measurable facts of “good” urbanism that we can all agree about, our city is being fed a steady diet of architecture, planning & engineering in denial about the imperatives of a socially functioning ubanism.

  • 32 Glissando Remmy // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    [b]The Thought of The Day[/b]

    [i]‘No funny thought goes unpunished’[/i]


    Humor me.
    Lay down on the couch. Any couch.
    Make sure you are not in a public or working space. Be home, be safe.
    It could get awkward.
    Open your eyes. (tell you why in a moment)
    Wide. (so you can read this, that’s why)
    Listen to my voice. (ahem, read my words aloud)
    You are completely relaxed.
    You are not aware of any other sounds, but my voice (please read with an Italian accent, like in Rome)
    Relax, Frankie goes to Hollywood.

    [i]‘I never joke! It’s not me, it’s you.[/i]‘

    It’s you the listener that finds what I’m saying, funny, or not. I am actually a serious, very serious person. Never laughed at anything in my entire life. (when I was little boy, people thought that I will make a great living in Buster Keaton comedies… the ‘talkies’ came on, though)

    Next, I’ll make three very serious statements.
    It is up to you, the reader, to perceive them as jokes, if you may.
    Any funny thought that you may have right this very moment, must be put away.
    This is serious.

    [i]‘Penny Ballem is the Baton strapped-on Chief of Police.’[/i]

    [i]‘Jimmy Chu is the Pussy Whipped City Manager’[/i]

    [i]‘Gregor Robertson is the Hall’s Peeping Tom.’ [/i]

    I’m going to count down from three now.
    When you’ll wake up you’ll feel as relaxed as after a riot…

    NARVA (Not A Riot Virgin Anymore)
    1… close your eyes now.

    What do you think? Did it work? Let me know. :-)

    [b]We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.[/b]

  • 33 Glissando Remmy // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    GR @ 29
    BBcode xtra rocks!…hmmm…
    Not exactly.

  • 34 mezzanine // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    @ GR 29

    I’m not calling you out because I’m denying new immigrants from the PRC are changing vancouver or that some are not corrupt officials, but your posts are verging on demagoguery.

    Canada was a good place to live in…until one day when high ranked Chinese Communist party officials, high echelon administrators of Sweatshop Factories catering to Major Western Brand names , and hardened criminals dealing in drugs and human trafficking… started to move large amounts of cash here, embezzling cca 14-15 Billion dollars that now the Chinese Government is looking for, in one of their biggest monetary recovery effort ever. With a bit of luck you’ll be seeing less BMW’s on the streets of Vancouver, but don’t hold your breath.

    It’s easy not to think about the nuances about how to make a better vancouver if you start to dehumanize one of many factors and groups at play.

    At least we went thru this before when the HK chinese started to “over-run” vancouver in the early 1990s. And yes, we made it thru somehow. and now, they are part of the fabric of vancouver. they’re so canadian, i think i saw terry hui flip a car on wednesday night rimshot.

  • 35 mezzanine // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    PS – use a “<" instead of a "[". :-)

  • 36 Everyman // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    @ Ron 21
    “Would you ask this question of other large urban centres, such as New York, London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong?”

    All of which are financial capitals, or the capital of their respective countries. Vancouver, most decidedly, is neither.

  • 37 Glissando Remmy // Jun 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    The Thought of The Evening

    ‘I’m not a demagog, far from it, I say it as it is, life is short, and surprise, surprise, nothing heavenly awaits you across the threshold. I am only cutting through the self imposed political correctness red tape that is killing us, slowly…mezzanine.’

    Here is an older comment of mine on a different topic, but still…

    From: (Trustee Carol Gibson: reflections on her term in office; 11 May 2011; Post by Carol Gibson in CityCaucus Feature)

    The Thought of The Day

    “More than a decade ago I attended a Citizenship ceremony at The Italian Cultural Centre. 200 people from 112 countries were sworn in as new Canadian Citizens. Proud to become Canadians… or so I thought…until one day when I found out that some of them kept their fingers crossed, and in fact they never wanted to live according to the customs of their adoptive country, but according to that of the countries they originated from. “

    Wear turbans with the RCMP police uniforms because of religious beliefs, renaming ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ … to ‘Snow White’ because it was making fun of the ‘little people’, ban Hans Christian Andersen ‘Ugly Ducking’ from the school curriculum because it was considered racist, stop the Merry Greeting during… Christmas, and more recently divert monies from the already depleted Arts and Crafts and Music programs that are Universal, Yes – U-N-I-V-E-R-S-A-L! and that have no language boundaries, to programs for… Mandarin and Cantonese immersion.

    What? Why? Because some political hacks in their quest for votes have no shame, no brains and not a shred of patriotism left in them! That’s why.The irony is that no mentioning of any First Nation language request was ever mentioned in any press release, from any politician, anytime. That’s hypocritical and shameless IMO.

    Unless your ancestors were First Nations, you are an Immigrant or the son or daughter of Immigrants. Period.

    I understand that and I respect that. So should you. One shouldn’t come here and start changing things and waiving the newly acquired visible minority status around. No, Siree Bob. If I wanted my kids to speak Cantonese I would have gone directly to China. But I didn’t …so that’s that.

    This has nothing to do with anything; it’s just a bunch of feckless politicians playing the Visible Minority Concerto for the Politically Correct Violin.

    Speaking of which it reminded me of Robertson’s trip to China…and his quest to learn Mandarin at taxpayer’s expense, in under one week. I heard it paid off in the end, when he addressed one lady with ‘Your city’s tits are huge and your butt looks sustainable to me, now let’s shag for expensive currency.” Don’t ask.

    I speak five languages. Three I learned throughout my two decades of schooling. The other two I picked up directly from the source during the periods I lived abroad. Despite all that it didn’t help me an iota while trying to deal with a car accident I was involved in few years back here in ‘cosmopolitan’ Vancouver. Hit from the side by a giant Lexus SUV, driven by a middle-aged Asian woman who was two months old in Canada (I found that out from the police officer on the scene), with no Insurance papers and no driving Licence on her, with no English language…or French skills what-so-ever! The passenger in her vehicle also displayed the same non verbal skills that would have made a mute look like a motor mouth. And yet, there they were, freshly anointed Permanent Residents, as I found later when I had to go through the ICBC insurance dance.

    Do I think that our Immigration system is flawed? Absolutely!
    To all the new apostles of change for the sake of change out there, when it comes to Canada, I say ‘hands off’ our customs and history and languages. Now, before preparing to counter-argue me on this, remember the saying ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’ …
    My point exactly!

    English, French…Spanish, Italian, Cantonese, Greek, Russian, Tagalog, German, Korean…languages. These are languages. But when my kid is threaten by the prospect of not getting a job because they don’t speak the Punjabi or Mandarin dialect here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 2011 …there is something wrong going on. Some people call this ‘reversed discrimination’; I call it ‘plain stupid politicians walking’.
    There. My two Kopecks.

    Good Night and Good Bye.
    Bonne Nuit et au Revoir.
    Buona Notte ed Arrivederci.
    Buenas Noches y Adiós
    Goede Nacht en Vaarwel

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.
    Glissando Remmy | May 15, 2011 10:53 PM | Reply

  • 38 mezzanine // Jun 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm


    At the best, if you are non-aboriginal, you are a few genererations away from the awkward first/second generation immigrant experience and have forgotten the lurching, iterative process of becoming a canadian/vancouverite.

    At the worst, the rigid thinking you display is the antithesis of what I want when I visit or live in a city.


    Time for a link:

    This is a city where people have come for generations in hope, sure that no matter how crummy things are for them when they arrive, life will surely get better. As Edward Glaeser writes in The Triumph of Cities (current bedtime reading), successful cities attract the poor in large numbers, because they offer the chance for escape that rural towns and smaller cities frequently can’t.

    But, oh boy, there is so much that’s still annoying about this city….

    In a city that epitomizes international connection, as immigrants arrive and our residents take off to work in all parts of the world, we are populated with a noticeable contingent of scarily parochial residents and politicians.

    Link to who said this.

    Anyway, I won’t hijack the thread with this topic anymore.

  • 39 Michael Geller // Jun 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Fascinating discussion. I´m chiming in since I´m currently ´living´in Javea, on the Costa Blanca about 75 minutes from Valencia on another house exchange…

    it´s 8:25 in the morning and firecrackers are going off since this is a week of ´midsummer´celebration in our town and the surrounding region…

    whenever I do a house exchange I spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of living in Vancouver compared to other places…in fact, yesterday I wrote a column for the Sun which hopefully will be published as part of my ´Homes Away From Home´series, setting out some of the lessons I think Vancouver could learn from this part of the world…

    Last night, my wife and I were discussing just how our house exchange partners are enjoying life in Vancouver….compared to how we are enjoying life here. We suspect they must like spending much less on gas, (I left them a fuel efficient Prius and gas costs 45% less in Vancouver. Here I have a large Saab that seems to take forever to fill and costs a lot of money…)

    but they must be distrought at the price of wine in Vancouver stores and restaurants! Here, the house wine is ususally 5 to 9 euros, and better wines can be found for 12 to 20 euros! In the grocery store, we have found some excellent rioja reservas and grand reservas for 4 to 10 euros!

    We are in a small fishing village on the coast that has become a primary residence and place for second homes for a mixture of Europeans…

    from our modern villa we can walk to town, buy an incredible variety of fresh fish at a fraction of the price in Vancouver, or when eating out, enjoy a string of seafront restaurants where you can get a nice 3 course meal, with wine for 9 to 12 euros…no worry about drinking and driving…

    Our exchange partners cannot get to a restaurant from our house without driving…(I know…we should move…and we will!) A restaurant meal will cost at least twice what it costs here…but they did have a wonderful overnight stay in Whistler…

    Then again, unemployment is 22% in the Valencia region and although there seems to be so much more industrial activitiy than in Vancouver, the region is spending more than it takes in and is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy.

    Rather than bore you with more details, I would conclude by saying that one´s enjoyment of Vancouver as a place to live is obviously a function of where and how you live…whether you worry about money…and how satisfying your work\life balance is….

    There is no doubt that Vancouver is beautiful to look at, but every time we do a house exchange we realize there are many plusses to life in other cities and countries…New Zealand and Australia both come to mind….but we don´t move because we are éstablished´in Vancouver…our friends are there…etc.

    However, if one could feel free to chose, I think there are many better places to live…where you are not worrying quite so much about whether you will ever be able to buy a home, or how to pay such large mortgage payments…and even whether you can afford to have kids…this one really troubles me whenever I hear it from young Vancouver couples…

    I agree with the comments above that if you can resign yourself to renting, Vancouver may be a better place to live than for those struggling to buy…although those who bought homes for $100,000 that are now worth $2 million and can sell to Glissando´s Chinese and move elsewhere and retire on their nest egg… would probably not think this way!

    So my advice, start doing house exchanges as a way to enjoy relatively inexpensive holidays, and a way to experience life in other places…go to to see what´s available.

    I must admit that while I am tempted to move to another place, if only for half the year…I do always come back to Vancouver…but I´m not sure it´s because it´s better…just because it´s where I live and it might be too much effort to change!

  • 40 Michael Geller // Jun 24, 2011 at 12:08 am

    PS…just read that Gordon Campbell has been offered a position in London, UK as Canadian High Commissioner.

    I think he´ll enjoy living there more than living in Vancouver…at least for the next few years.

    Congratulations Gordon.

  • 41 Glissando Remmy // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:25 am

    The Thought of The Night

    ‘ JUST IN: Gordon Campbell goes to London – A suitable punishment.’

    Our corespondent in Europe just wired the news re. the new Canadian High Commissioner in London, UK.
    One may be tempted to say, nice work if you can get it. Not me. Joke!
    Think about it.

    He’ll have to drive a Mini like Mr. Bean, on the wrong side of the road. Considering his past troubles with driving on the right side…
    The rule is ‘If you drive on the left, you are always right!’

    Wake up to an English Breakfast with coffee – black, tasteless beer sausages, and crumpets.

    Just in the nick of time for the next Royal wedding.
    Long walks in Hyde Park, feeding the ducks in St. James, pint of lager later at the Silly Goat Pub.

    He will not be missed. Let him screw the British too. But why my favorite city?
    When asked about his appointment, he responded:

    ‘I thought that the Prime Minister liked me. Now thinking back, I’d rather have him hate me.’

    Upsides? You get caught driving UI with 3-4 Martinis… two words ‘Diplomatic Immunity!’

    Politicians, eh? You can’t live with them, you can’t…get rid of them… unless you send them away.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.


    Michael, I just think you’ve got yourself a damn good deal. I feel for that house exchange Spanish family, no really! :-)

  • 42 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

    A good friend loaned me “The Invention of Paris: A History in the Footsteps” by Eric Hazan in English translation. It is a book about a Paris difficult to follow because I don’t know Paris all that well. Hazan knows the city first hand, from having lived there, the way we know Vancouver. This passage rings true:

    Working-class Paris occupies the east of the city—the northeast to be precise. People often say that this is also getting gentrified, that the marginal, the poor, the immigrants are steadily being driven out by the irresistible advance of the ‘bobos’ (‘bohemian bourgeois’—intellectuals, artists, designers, journalists, etc.) who cultivate their superficial nonconformism and benign antiracism in these quarters, while driving up the rents with the help of the property speculators. This opinion needs some shading… [p. xii]

    Sometimes districts set up over time, historically or organically, sometimes they are the result of policy, and sometimes they grow out of policies in conflict one from another resulting from authorities that don’t communicate precipitating unforeseen and unwanted results.

    In our city the Historic Quartiers study is finding that the poor are poor at least three times over: first, for lacking income; second for having graduated from one and another of a handful of federal and provincial programs (corrections, foster care, mental health, Aboriginal Affairs, etc.); and third for being located in social housing built on the cheap in an area that has been ravaged by industrial zoning, was given the daily intrusion of some 100,000 cars in a strip less than a half-mile wide, and is lacking in in all but the barest level of urban spaces that support social mixing.

    Yet, within these blocks we are finding some the best urban residential districts in our city. This time at least the poor people are not the first in line as needing attention (and removal). In our city, the construction of social housing in the historic quartiers is taking the form of the first wave of reclaiming the neighbourhoods away from policy that didn’t work—or that has run its course—and returning urban land to people and families (For an example look at our reporting on Japantown:

    It is often said that a city rebuilds itself every 50 years. If this is so, the 1940’s were the first instance when this process happened in Vancouver. Seventy years on we are feeling the pinch from a process now one or two decades delayed.

  • 43 rf // Jun 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

    “It is a peculiar thing about liberals: when it comes to middle-class people who are fully capable of caring for themselves, liberals seek to undermine their independence in every way possible. With seductive entitlements like guaranteed retirement, health care, nutrition, education and jobs, liberals attempt to lure
    the middle class into dependence on the state. But when it comes to those who are truly incompetent, those whose mental afflictions render them unable to manage their lives at all, Liberals are suddenly transformed into absolutists for personal autonomy.”
    –Mona Charen

    That’s pretty much where I see our city/province going when the NDP/Vision try to pull it further left.

  • 44 Glissando Remmy // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

    The European Thought of The Day

    ‘From London to Paris, from Madrid to Rome, from Zurich to Amsterdam… the Euro-English is becoming the new trend in Europe.’

    Frances, Michael, and all others traveling throughout Europe, better brush up on your language skills.
    Considering his language skills, not a good time for Gordon Campbell though.

    Read on.


    “The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

    As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

    In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”.. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”.. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

    Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

    Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

    By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

    During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

    Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

    Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas. ”

    Ve liv in Vankuver und zis kips us buzy.

  • 45 Dan Cooper // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I live in a tiny condo in the Douglas Park neighbourhood, about halfway between the Mayor and the Premier if I have their locations correct. I can walk or at a pinch bike or bus to almost everything I could possibly want to do, be it stores, restaurants, sports venues, theatre and opera, shopping, parks, work, libraries or whatever else… Well, they did move the government map store from Broadway and Cambie out onto some such foresaken strip of road in the ‘burbs, but I’ve been managing to maintaine somehow despite no longer having instant access to the latest geodesics. Anyway, my child continues to have a great experience in his local public school, again within walking distance. Did I mention the multiple community centres with all kinds of activity and sport options, ranging from a few blocks to a kilometre or so away? The youth sports teams? I would say that from a middle class perspective, Vancouver is a really good place to live, with the only drawback being the expense of housing. If you’re willing to live in a place half or a third the size you could afford elsewhere, Vancouver is perfect. For me, it’s been well worth that trade-off. As for visitors, as others have said they tend to go and do many of the same things I do when I’m relaxing: parks, seawall, Granville Island, theatre, restaurants…

  • 46 Max // Jun 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Sorry for the interuption – PSA time!

    Kits will be hosting its street fair on Saturday, July 23 from 11 am – 6 pm.

    The ‘Khatsalano Music Festival’ will run along West 4th Avenue from Burrard to Macdonald.

    Come out and enjoy the festivities!

  • 47 Modern // Jun 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    At risk of being skewered and quoted out of context with my upcoming comments about beer and wine, I will say a few things about what Vancouver lacks (this is not within the scope of larger planning questions).

    In my view, small and reasonable changes to certain regulations and by-laws could make a big difference in terms of culture, livability and Vancouver being an overall pleasurable and dynamic place.

    Anecdote: There is a coffee shop in my neighbourhood which serves beer. That is cool and everything as people are able to casually, perhaps spontaneously enjoy a beverage in a relaxed environment. Here is what is not cool: I have witnessed individuals (often from out of town) attempt to proceed about 15 steps to the front door in an attempt to sit on a sidewalk patio chair. I cringe at witnessing the barista run after the client ordering them to please return to within the perimeter of the inside area of the coffee shop as they cannot consume their beverage outside even though there are chairs and tables there (for milk, pop and coffee..I presume). They stand dumbfounded. These are the rules. The CoV’s fondness for ‘regulating’ and ‘by-law-ing’ everything has got to change.

    In my experience, this is a key difference and a big part of what makes Vancouver appear puritanical and paternalistic. If anyone has travelled to Europe (and perhaps Montreal and a handful of other places on this continent) you will see the great part about them is the street activity and more or less unplanned public meetings and spaces. In my experience, these places are often characterized by what appear to be improvised sidewalk cafes.

    I will credit the city with seemingly headed in a positive direction…but still with much work to do.

  • 48 Roger Kemble // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Herr General Bossy Nosey @ #40

    Oh no Lewis not another hero?

    First, Leon Krier, and his line up of Lombardi poplars then Colin Rowe’s Bricolage: now Eric Hazen re-inventing Paris (acknowledged: you enjoy cheap tourist excursions but . . .)

    One of your less endearing traits is plagiarism!

    We know you can read Lewis. My question is do you understand what you read?

    I did no want to rain on your parade out of politeness but . . .

    Your disastrous charrette did no good for Nanaimo: one councilor described your effort as a 19th century northern mining camp!

    Copying Krier imposing junk cottages from a gippo development in Maillardville prompted me to wonder . . ..

    Yes we suffered your strutting pomposity. Then you disappeared for a couple of weeks reappearing remarkably similar to . . .

    Tom Wolfe’s description (paraphrasing) . . . as relentlessly rational . . . flying higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction . . . you disappears up your own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird” In that you are not alone . . . .

    At your final Nanaimo presentation you carelessly turned off Mayor and council slighting of one of their local heroes . . . they then walked out.

    Strutting pomposity is no substitute for humbly listening to the neighbours who have unique local knowledge. They know their home turf. Listening is the purpose of a charrette leader. Clearly you did not listen at SUNN . . .

    In your SUNN link, (BTW I was married to a Nisei for 12 years. Her notion of Japantown is not yours) Lewis N. Villegas headlines eleven time and not one word from your forty-nine students (you didn’t even bother to name them). How come?

    Next you will be quoting Ayn Rand: then Howard Roark?

    Oh BTW Glissando @ #41 George Bernard Shaw did his best to change English spelling . . .

    . . . through the media of his classic character, Enri “Iggin’s et. al.

    Unfortunately to no avail in his lifetime.

  • 49 Roger Kemble // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Profound apologies Michael.

    The link to Bossy is @ #31

  • 50 Roger Kemble // Jun 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Sorry Glissando link @ # 44

  • 51 Ned // Jun 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Glissando Remmy,
    Hear, Hear! Right on…on the “China syndrome” , I don’t understand why “mezzanine” claims blindness.
    Michael Geller makes a good point, when it comes to making a quick buck, all guilt disappears. Buy it with 100, 000 sell it with two millions and run.
    Nobody wants to explain to me what happens to your kids and grand-kids, after you split the money with them and they end up with what I see only as a down-payment. And you’ll end up in a place where you have no friends (if you are lucky) and you don’t even speak their language (unlucky). This is just idiotic. If this trend will continue there is going to be nothing left to talk about, not in the English language perhaps. Playing real estate with the Chinese is like playing blackjack against the casino, too many and too loaded. Not a chance in hell.

    Glissando (now is me trying to be funny :-) )
    #6, 26, 32, 33, 37, 41, 44
    Being Friday and still having some time left I’m going to purchase a MAX ticket with your posting numbers. If I win I’ll split the proceeds with you. :-)

  • 52 David Hadaway // Jun 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm


    I was thinking of the unpredictable randomness of everyday life being allowed to flourish within the controlled structure of the city. Look at Rome, London, New York. Rougher, dirtier, less controlled than Vancouver but far more vibrant. I had the same feeling recently in Toronto, broken kerbs but lively streets. Here we want everything regulated, usually in the most mundane way. We’re like people who claim to admire their neighbours’ scruffy heritage house, full of mismatched furniture and real paintings, but aspire to live in a squeaky clean, colour co-ordinated show home with reproductions from IKEA on the walls.

    Unfortunately this aspiration is both boring and not really attainable. So we end up, for example, with a designated, licensed, detail designed entertainment zone such as Granville Street on which the worst kind of repressed chaos bursts forth every weekend.

    Organic planning? Pretty much a contradiction in terms.

  • 53 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    “[T]he unpredictable randomness of everyday life being allowed to flourish within the controlled structure of the city. Look at Rome…”

    DH 52

    Okay, I get it… Maximum freedom within agreed upon limits.

    I have a nasty habit of taking everything as commentary on the urbanism. My preference for urban codes is a belief that unless we structure places for social mixing; we take care to put limits on how close is too close to be up against one’s neighbour’s house; and set counts for how many cars per day are too many for livable streets, then the city we build will not be the city you and I want.

    Yes, lots of choices, lots of urbanity, and a lot less petty regulations as others have mentioned above.

    But folks, the kind of planning that is producing the HAHR and the Mount Pleasant Community Plan should be enough to set our hair on fire. Especially if we can understand and quantify the quality of our neighbourhoods, as say, Dan Cooper’s Douglas Park.

    There seems to be such a gap between the value of what we have, and the options our Municipal Hall is spinning that one is left with no other recourse than to worry. Twenty more years like the last two decades and we may not even recognize this place.

  • 54 Max // Jun 24, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Off topic, but hey…

    So this ad was posted on Craig’s List earlier today – you would think that after what just happened the biking community would exercise a little respect….(especially since they suck up taxpayer dollars)


    Critical Mass tonight at 5pm we meet at the Art Gallery (The only requirement you need is a bike)

    Date: 2011-06-24, 10:47AM PDT
    Reply to:
    [Errors when replying to ads?]

    Come out and help support the critical mass tonight and have fun pissing off the motorist while riding your bike and if the motorist starts yelling at you telling you to get the fuck off the road just ride up by his car and punch him in the face because you have the right to be on the road just like the other guy…. See you there

    Location: The only requirement you need is a bike
    it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

  • 55 spartikus // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    –Mona Charen

    Anne Coulter was unavailable.

  • 56 Roger Kemble // Jun 25, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Bossy @ # 53

    Well, Lewis, I’ll say this for you, you have the crust of a dead rhinoceros. You are Coquitlam thru and thru!

    Pontificating to the gullible and innocent on topics of which you have no experience, no academic training, no knowledge and certainly no insight may be satisfying . . .

    But our place of abode will only come to life when money ceases to be debt and planning is more than Sergeant Pepper in her militaristic approval office.

    Sin embargo, I am sure you will go on blabbering until those over indulged, mindless kids, torching cop cars, come out of jail a hell of a lot wiser.

    My god we live in a weird world!

  • 57 Roger Kemble // Jun 25, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Anyway . . .

    Enjoy Il Volo

  • 58 Glissando Remmy // Jun 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Il Pensiero Del Giorno

    ‘Salve A Tutti. Dedico questa canzone a la mia primo amore…!’

    Per Ruggero #57,

    Il Volo… Gruppo musicale e bella canzone, il mio Amico, Si…che ma grande Gianni Morandi e fantastica! Guarda questo…

    (the correct English translation for this song title is:
    ‘VISION returns the down on their knees
    COPE … a favor.’

    (and of course, excuse the silly Magyar dubbing over the flowing Italian, but this was the best clip I’ve found, worthy for image and sound, sooo…BTW, for the Urbanists out there, watch the traffic, but more importantly watch for the bike, for the only bike…how many separated bike lanes do you see, only in the movies, ladies and gentlemen, only in the movies, one more thing, filmed on location in Naples, Campania, 1964, a very good year indeed)

    Bellissimaaaa canzoneeeeee…

    Noi viviamo a Vaffanculo e questo ci tiene occupati.

  • 59 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm


    Go read Bob Ransford’s column in the real estate section of the Sun today.

  • 60 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    “Greatest Hits Nite” with crooners a-foreign… Take Two:

  • 61 Glissando Remmy // Jun 26, 2011 at 12:35 am

    The Thought of The Midnight

    “Salvatore Adamo, Gianni Morandi, Adriano Celentano…Azzurro. Frances is in Rome, so tonight, we’ll stay Italian.”

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but I grew up on Jaques Tati movies and on music from this guys.
    Beatles? Yeah, they were ok… What Beatles?

    When I was a few years old my parents took me to see this little gal (as the story goes, they couldn’t afford a babysitter, and the tickets were hard to place, so…cheap, as she was an unknown…at the time… so yeah, Glissando was there, though he doesn’t remember much…)

    “Cerco l’estate tutto l’anno
    e all’improvviso eccola qua.
    Lei è partita per le spiagge
    e sono solo quassù in città,
    sento fischiare sopra i tetti
    un aeroplano che se ne va.
    il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro
    e lungo per me.”

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 62 Tessa // Jun 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Good topic.

    I think, as always, it depends. Living on Commercial Drive, I’m within a few blocks of four grocery stores of one type or another, unfathomable numbers of restaurants, shops for everything I need and across the street from a park. I am absolutely spoiled, though at the tip of what I can afford as a renter. At the same time, when I lived in northern BC I earned more money, paid less rent, went on grand camping trips in summer and snowboarding trips in the winter, all of which I can’t afford, not least of which because I don’t have a car here.

    But while Vancouver is expensive, and like your Paris example, tough to have the so-called middle class dream (though frankly, I don’t consider that a problem, but a plus. Those families I know who rent homes in Vancouver do reasonably well), we have, despite all our complaining, a reasonably well-functioning transit system and many other things going for us. Part of the problem may also be the relative lack of middle class jobs, not just houses, in our service sector oriented economy.

    But part of the reason I find it liveable right now is because I have a place I can walk to everything I need. If I didn’t have that, life would be far more challenging. And frankly my experience is relatively rare, confined to the inner city. As well, much of what is within walking distance is unaffordable for me, which I can live with, but in other cities (Portland comes to mind) the poor can much more easily afford the small luxuries of a beer and dinner out on the town and similar urban experiences.

    Still it’s hard for me to judge because I haven’t lived in another major city. I think the stresses people feel trying to make this city liveable and not just visitable will continue to grow unless we are able to keep up in terms of density, and do so in a manner that is community friendly. That’s actually one reason why I’m quite excited about the Cambie corridor plan; I feel it strikes the right balance. Without a pressure valve, the pressure for gentrification I think will be too great, and the affordability of the East Side in particular will suffer.

  • 63 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    ” I have a place I can walk to everything I need. If I didn’t have that, life would be far more challenging. And frankly my experience is relatively rare, confined to the inner city…”

    Tessa 62

    Here’s a shot of Maple Tree Square last week:

    Tonight, the cars will not be there. Jazz will be in the air. The weather is going to be perfect. And the people and the urban room both with be in action. So will my family and I—see you there.

    Living on/near Commercial you are on one of the 10 ‘Drives’ that fill the area that separates Vancouver’s historic district (roughly Main Street to the end of Water Street) and the original Hastings Townsite (from Nanaimo to Renfrew).

    If you lived closer to Glenn Drive (the first Drive after Strathcona) you would be within easy walking distance of downtown. That would open up a whole new world of possibilities while leaving Commercial still nearby.

    However, Cambie (and the Mount Pleasant plan) won’t hunt. We can do that density without building strata title property that raises your rent with the dread and hidden tax: the condo fee.

    Most often you can’t have a rental in your unit as a mortgage helper, which is bad business for you and bad for the neighbourhood. It means there is less affordable rental property around.

    You can’t paint your door red, or hang your laundry out to dry outside. The sun & air you get comes from one direction. If that happens to be a major arterial—the soot is going to be a health problem and present a constant cleaning chore.

    And since the gardening and the building upkeep chores are all done by hired hands, the opportunity is lost for social mixing while you’re fussing over the petunias.

    You have the right idea. Yet the details are also important.

  • 64 Higgins // Jun 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Roger Kemble, Glissando Remmy and Lewis N. Villegas went down the Memory Lane , to the Melancholy piazza…
    Frances must be over the moon with their selection.
    Nice. Very nice. Nice surprise.
    This one is for The Gliss!
    Here is a clip of Rita Pavone today…n bloody color.

  • 65 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 26, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    @Glissy @Mezzanine #26

    From the Sun’s Jonathan Manthorpe.

  • 66 The Fourth Horseman // Jun 26, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    As per the above piece from the Sun online tonight:

    What’s the point in talikng about oyr favourite places, our great restaurants and our favourite walks or lack of affordabilitey when we havet this huge money laundering and organized crime problem??

    Why aren’t we talking about what really drives this town?

  • 67 Glissando Remmy // Jun 27, 2011 at 12:07 am

    The Thought of The Night

    ‘Max and Lotto 6/49… the financial planing of the future towards house ownership for most Canadians living in BC.’

    Ned #51
    ‘Playing real estate with the Chinese is like playing blackjack against the casino, too many and too loaded. Not a chance in hell. ‘

    I could not have said it better myself, Ned.
    People in Vancouver are a greedy bunch, but also a stupid bunch. As Michael said ‘buy for 100,000 sell for 2 mill. if you can’ that’s a good deal, if you can get it. But I’m asking you, if that cash payment was the result of crime, that transaction should be looked at as accessory to… right?
    Yeah right. Where? In the best place on Earth? As I mentioned earlier #26 :
    ‘What we get, is the Creme ala Creme commie apparatchik & relatives, hiding their loot deep in our land, by buying us out. Period.’
    Don”t get me wrong;

    The Fourth Horseman #65

    Thanks for the link. Well, who knew, eh?
    Tell ‘mezzanine’ and the rest of the ‘believers in fairies’ to read this story in the Sun. Isn’t this story just what the doctor recommended for their Ostrich Syndrome?
    BTW, Johnatan Manthrope must have followed my research during the weekend, and I say to him… good riddance. :-)

    ‘I haue her lost,
    For all my cost,
    Yet for all that I trowe
    I haue perchaunce,
    A fayre ryddaunce,
    And am quyt of a shrew.’
    (Away Mourning, circa 1525, by John Rastell)

    Higgins #64

    Got me there Higgins! I like Lily Allen a lot, but you are so right, her physical resemblance to Rita Pavone is uncanny. her music though…
    Hey, take Beatles and …Oasis for example.
    (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 68 Roger Kemble // Jun 27, 2011 at 6:19 am

  • 69 mezzanine // Jun 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Tell ‘mezzanine’ and the rest of the ‘believers in fairies’ to read this story in the Sun. Isn’t this story just what the doctor recommended for their Ostrich Syndrome?

    I don’t regret anything i’ve said.

    I’ve said that the rise in housing prices are from multiple factors.

    Of those factors, that includes the effect of immigration.

    Of those immigrants a subset is from china.

    Of which a subset have come into money thru nefarious means.


    I’ve also said the way you address this is not with thoughtful dialogue.

    Wear turbans with the RCMP police uniforms because of religious beliefs, renaming ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ … to ‘Snow White’ because it was making fun of the ‘little people’, ban Hans Christian Andersen ‘Ugly Ducking’ from the school curriculum because it was considered racist, stop the Merry Greeting during… Christmas, and more recently divert monies from the already depleted Arts and Crafts and Music programs that are Universal, Yes – U-N-I-V-E-R-S-A-L! and that have no language boundaries, to programs for… Mandarin and Cantonese immersion.

    Change, through time, is guaranteed. how vancouver should face it?

    At least the rebuttal writes itself….


  • 70 Michelle // Jun 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    mezzanine #69
    You are one of the three: Real estate developer; Realtor; or one of the people in this audience:
    Change is coming, OK, but you don’t have to be an ignoramus, and accepted as is… No wonder the things in Vancouver are the way they are.

  • 71 Tessa // Jun 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    @Lewis. Generally yes, agreed on the details. On that aspect, newly built parts of Vancouver is fare much poorer.

  • 72 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 28, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Yep, Tessa. The last 20 years—for the most part—have been a bad ride.

    I like the towers downtown. I just don’t get it when they go to the Safeway sites (&etc) at Knight & Kingsway; Main & Broadway; Granville & 70th; Arbutus Village; etc.

    The one resounding chord for me is that wedo not understand urbanism… that is—how to live in a place where the car is not King.

  • 73 Hazu Chan // Jun 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Being of Chinese descent, I don’t feel like a “minority” in Vancouver. The texture of how I feel as I walk down the street is a completely different feeling, than say, walking in Manhattan.

  • 74 West End Gal // Jun 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    LOL@ Hazu #73
    Sooooo true. Not a shy one in sight, inside that “texture” either…

  • 75 Sean // Jun 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    “Vancouver ranked ‘nicest’ Canadian city despite hockey riot” –

    What’s telling to me is that 94% of people who live in Vancouver picked Vancouver as the “nicest city”, higher than the percentage of residents who picked their own city anywhere else. That tells me that the ranking isn’t just due to “the grass is greener” sentiment, but that people who live here actually like it here.

  • 76 Glissando Remmy // Jun 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    The Thought of The Day

    ‘Birds of a feather flock together. In Vancouver the most popular birds are from the Corvidae family… aka Crows. ‘

    I wonder where and who was polled for this …

    Sean #75,
    Look again at the picture featured in the National Post.
    Postcard. Picture perfect!

    What you cannot see or smell though, are the DTES, the disenfranchised, the addicts, the back alleys, the Top in Canada (for the past 10 years in child poverty) Title, thanks to the now… Great Commissar Gordon Campbell, the lack of housing affordability, the totally corrupt municipal and provincial governments…shall I go on?
    And stop me from laughing out loud, MSM reporting ‘real news’ is like winning at 6-49 Lotto, 1 chance in 14,000,000.

    Nobody can live in a Postcard from Portlandia. I’ll also let you in a little secret, all Norman Rockwell paintings were staged as well.
    What, you didn’t know that?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 77 MB // Jun 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Just came across this article on Stockholm published last week on Citiwire. Sweden’s main city was recently voted the first European Green Capital. Comparing Vancouver’s accomplishments to Stockholm’s is a very interesting way to measure Vancouver’s progress, and also as a way to define how much farther we have to go. We brag about a 25% reduction in traffic to/from downtown. Well, how about a 66% decline, like Stockholm’s? Mind you, part of that was assisted with new road infrastructure at the urban edge, but I’d bet a toonie it wasn’t the major reason they’ve experienced such a decrease in car dependency.

    It’s obvious we need to attain a deeper enlightenment and urban maturity compared to European urban and public culture paradigms. Having said that, we shouldn’t neglect emphasizing our accomplishments (hopefully with a sense of humility) to people who come here from other young North American cities to learn. I’ve always said Vancouver can teach Calgary much.

    The central Stockholm planning process differed from Vancouver’s in several ways, notably by excluding developers from the planning process until the vast amount of public consultation was completed (significantly, lower building heights were preferred), and by deeper environmental considerations, like sea level rise (as opposed to chicken coops).

    Here’s the link:

  • 78 MB // Jun 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    A little more elucuidation on ” I’ve always said Vancouver can teach Calgary much.”

    First they’d have to listen, and that’s not automatically guaranteed in a wealthy one horse town.

    But then again, almost every Calgarian I know expends a great deal of energy getting out of town (vacations, retirement, etc), and big chunk of them end up on the Coast.

  • 79 IanS // Jun 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @ MB #77:

    You write: “It’s obvious we need to attain a deeper enlightenment and urban maturity compared to European urban and public culture paradigms.”

    Without commenting on your points re Stockholm, I think it’s worth mentioning that Europe is a continent, containing a number of different countries and cultures. I don’t think you can generalize like that, at least in respect of the specific instance you give (ie. a “green” accomplishment in the form of reduced car loss). Indeed, in Frances’ original post, she mentions her friend’s assessment of Rome as having an abysmal transit system.

  • 80 spartikus // Jun 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    notably by excluding developers from the planning process


    I don’t think you can generalize like that

    Sigh, probably not. How about “Central European” then?

    Swedish being Swedish for common sense.

  • 81 MB // Jun 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    @ IanS #79. Fair enough. Permit me to reword:

    “It’s obvious we need to attain a deeper enlightenment and urban maturity compared to MANY European urban and public culture paradigms.”

    Rome may be one of the few exceptions regarding transit, but one thinks of many European cities we can learn from like Copenhagen, Strasbourg, Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Freiberg and just about any city connected to high speed rail network spreading across the continent.

  • 82 IanS // Jun 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    @MB #81,

    Fair enough, though I suspect, when viewed a little closer, there are many European cities with different strengths and weaknesses in different areas, some of which Vancouver could learn from and some of which could maybe learn something from Vancouver.

    IMO, it’s inaccurate and potentially misleading to lump Europe together into one homogenous entity.

  • 83 Roger Kemble // Jun 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    We had a family birthday on Spanish Banks last Sunday. We approached along Cambie and thru the UEL and left over Burrard Bridge and along the causeway.

    The traffic was bumper to bumper every which way: despite the hyped up new technology. The parking was . . . well . . . we eventually found a place.

    What is most destructive to me personally is how the ubiquitous presence of so many badly designed chunks of metal does damage to the ambience of the city!

    Pretensions of Green Vancouver are just that. Off shore in English Bay there was a huge blue and tan ro-ro that I assume had just dumped another load. So much for pretensions . . .

    I know very little about European traffic other than as a tourist but I read their newspapers: there is a significant difference between our approach and theirs. Vancouver’s uses some 50% of media space flogging real estate and cars.

    Europeans are much more frugal.

    There are five tiers of TX on our streets: people, bikes, transit, emergency and goods.

    I suppose the latter is a nocturnal occupation . . . biking seems to be hazardous: one little girl fell off just in front of us . . . luckily we were able to stop . . . as for emergency on the west side on a sunny Sunday . . . good luck!

  • 84 Sean N. // Jun 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    @Roger Kemble #83

    “What is most destructive to me personally is how the ubiquitous presence of so many badly designed chunks of metal does damage to the ambiance of the city!”

    I gotta tell you that cycling down to and around False Creek or Stanley Park on a bicycle is a wonderful, enriching, enlivening experience. Cars are convenient to get you from point A to point B, but they’re no way to enjoy the city!

  • 85 Everyman // Jun 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Anybody who thinks Canadians would accept European levels of taxation to achieve these “utopias” is dreaming in Technicolor.

  • 86 Norman // Jun 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I have lived in Vancouver and Rome. Vancouver life is easier in finding and buying things (if you want them), but Rome has something I don’t think we will ever have – authenticity. We Vancouverites lack self confidence, and it shows. We seem to be trying to act like other people, or rather, what we think other people act like. As a result, we look provincial and shallow. We say things about ourselves that even we don’t believe. Italians don’t run around copying how other people do things, they “Italianize”. A good idea is how we behave at Starbucks. Italian tourists must have a good laugh when they get a load of that.

  • 87 Roger Kemble // Jun 30, 2011 at 7:09 am

    . . . I don’t think we will ever have – authenticity.

    Well said Norman @ #85

  • 88 IanS // Jun 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

    @Norman #85:

    You write: “Rome has something I don’t think we will ever have – authenticity.”

    I think I know what you mean, but I wouldn’t call it “authenticity”. I think of it as texture or, perhaps, history. Places like Rome, they’ve been around a long time as human settlements. There’s layers upon layers of history there, which, IMO, gives it a depth and texture which a much younger place – say, Vancouver – just cannot match.

    Who knows.. if Vancouver is around in a couple of thousand years, maybe it will have that kind of feeling to it.

  • 89 Michael Geller // Jun 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

    There is no doubt that many Swedish and German cities are much further ahead than Vancouver when it comes to ‘greeness’ and we will not catch up to them by 2020 or whenever it is we are supposed to be the greenest city in the world.

    We may not even catch up to Valencia, where I recently visited, or Seville, where I am at the moment. Indeed, the greening of downtown Seville is something to behold with it’s car free zones, streetcars and extensive bicycle paths.

    Like many European cities, it too has a bike share program called CycleCity which seems to work since helmets are not mandatory. I must say, I am most intrigued to see how someone is going to make a bike share program work in Vancouver with mandatory helmets….although to be fair, perhaps they can come up with a new helmet design, similar to Toronto’s Rogers Stadium roof that folds into itself. I’m waiting.

    But back to Spanish cities and Rome….there’s no doubt that when a city was planned many centuries before the invention of the automobile, there is a great advantage when it comes to sustainability. But Europeans also seem to have a greater sensibility about resource conservation, reusing the old, and minimizing waste. Perhaps I’m just imagining it, but I sense a different attitude that’s quite important.

    By the way, if you haven’t been to Seville, put it on your list. I must confess, I was blown away by the delightful and architecturally rich streetscapes I discovered this morning upon leaving my hotel in Santa Cruz and heading towards the cathedral.

    Why haven’t more people been raving about this city? After only a day here, I think it’s phenominal.

  • 90 Michelle // Jun 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Glissando Remmy #76

    Thank you for being so candid Glissando with this:
    “What you cannot see or smell though, are the DTES, the disenfranchised, the addicts, the back alleys, the Top in Canada (for the past 10 years in child poverty) Title, thanks to the now… Great Commissar Gordon Campbell, the lack of housing affordability, the totally corrupt municipal and provincial governments…shall I go on?”
    Absolutely right. We created this image about ourselves here in Vancouver, where we believe that we live in a picture perfect Postcard!
    Tomorrow is… Canada day. For some this means just another day of survival and hope and broken drerams and promises. Nothing more, nothing less.
    But we continue to talk about Rome, Valencia, Seville…wow, I’m happy for you all but how about go back to talking about Vancouver, Canada and about our leader’s arrogance and incompetence and misogynist approach (Hello Mr. Robertson, Hello Mr. Meggs) . If I needed travel information…Expedia is just a click away.
    Happy Canada Day Everyone!

  • 91 Derp Derp // Jul 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    thank you all for the most insightful vancouver thread i’ve read in a while.

    first, the city is noticeably less pleasant to live in than when we first moved here in 1988.

    secondly, Norman @ 87

    Vancouver, specifically areas of the Fraser river mouth and Stanley Park have been settled by the first nations for possibly up to or exceeding 15,000 years.

    THIS is history, but let’s be honest about why it’s not considered as such.

    we’d be wise to investigate the money laundering problem more. but since we’re not…

  • 92 Lewis N. Villegas // Jul 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Michelle, we’ve been completing a look-see study of the urbanism in the historic neighbourhoods in our city. What stands out is not the gentrification, the poverty, or the lack of a “middle ground”.

    What jumps out at us is that Vancouver’s Historic Quartiers are as walkable as Rome, Sevilla, Valencia—and many other places that were built before the automobile—but that we are not taking that into account. In other words, we don’t understand the urbanism of the DTES. Never have and never will unless we change paradigm.

    Why is that important? I’m beginning to suspect that we can’t grow an urban culture in a petri dish. We have to evolve it right on site, one neighbourhood and one quartier at a time. The young whipper-snappers and the old-hoots alike have to find common ground on the simple, concrete, and wholly ignored facts of urban places.

    Here’s an example. We heard a lot of talk about the “Freeway Fight” and how a freeway was stopped from being constructed wiping out Strathcona before turning right and destroying Carrall and then on to the wreak havoc and blight on the waterfront. But, we heard no narrative about the fact that the cars came anyway.

    Instead of being put on a freeway they were put on Powell, Cordova, Hastinsgs, Prior/Venables and First/Terminal. The numbers on those streets today are staggering. Something like 130,000 vehicles per day ride on those streets driving past what is in most cases severely impacted single family residential homes (we checked Vanmap where we found 2006 vehicular counts).

    A process known as “disinvestment” was also underway at this same time. The banks didn’t lend home mortgages in the “inner city”—lands slated for freeway construction and more—from the 1950’s, right through the 60’s and 70’s. Major developers also stayed away.

    Another major initiative that was not completed was a scheme to wipe out the historic quartiers and build social housing in towers. CMHC’s McLean Housing Project in Strathcona was the “model” of what was to follow.

    Instead vast tracts of these urban neighbourhoods were re-zoned “industrial”. As a result we got the cheap one and two storey concrete block warehouse buildings we see there today. Some neighbourhoods clung to life and fought to survive. Thus, we have Strathcona, Vernon Drive, the 600 block E Cordova Street, and a sprinkling of houses here and there.

    Beginning in the 1970’s government policy located in this place, and in great concentrations, the most at-risk segment of our population. Social housing was built in the “industrial zones” among warehouses and chained off yards. No neighbourhood infrastructure. No urban design to support social functioning, and replace the stuff that had been there but was stripped away.

    It is still hard to understand why. Walking around today in the Oppenheimer district (on Cordova and on Powell Streets) what I see are poorly executed social housing schemes surrounded by warehouses. Except for the Sunrise Market, Oppenheimer Park, and a few other places, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. Then, there is the day-long buzz of high traffic volumes travelling at very high speeds. Pedestrian-automobile incidents in this area I am told are the highest in our city.

    That’s why, Michelle, I feel that it is important to be knowledgeable about these other places. Better to go, study and absorb their lessons even if it will be a Dickens to figure out how to apply them here. And don’t go just as a tourist. Photograph, sketch, measure, listen to the locals and think, “how would I use this back home?”

    For example, the notion of social mix is alive and well in many places outside Vancouver. In our historic neighbourhoods putting a stronger middle between the Woodwards-gentrification, and the mediocre-standard social housing would go a long way to attracting the critical mass necessary to support a truly diversified neighbourhood economy. One that might cater to low, medium and high incomes in meaningful and substantial ways.

    The governments would once again play the leading role as they should. But the approach and the results would be different. For example, a logical choice would be LRT on Hastings, usurping up to 200,000 vehicle-trips per day and returning neighbourhood streets to safety and social functioning.

  • 93 Roger Kemble // Jul 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Lewis @ #90

    Allow me acquaint you with the ambulatory public amenity of the DTES. To wit: Gassy Jack’s Square, Pigeon Park (arguably one of Vancouver’s best public and most used, places), the desecated Goaler’s Muse, Blood Alley, Oppenheimer Park, Crab Park, close by Victory Square and their connections.

    Way back in 1968 The Community Arts Council of Vancouver arranged JJ walks.

    Since then, DTES has fallen prey to predatory attention. The place has been done to death: sin embargo nothing has changed!

    Your oleaginous approach, i.e. to Michelle, hasn’t improved the area one wit. Paris and Rome are hardly role models for local developers and approval offices: they have other agenda.

    Those cities came into being hundreds of years ago, long before the current destructive system of financing and fractional reserve banking.

    Traffic, Lewis is a symptom, not a cause!

    Now let me direct you to page 10 of the Cambie Corridor study . . .

    Lots of pretty coloured pictures. Lite on substance . . . note the diagram of the study area: there are three designated loci and two possible. The text describes the familiar, by now, 400m walking radius etc.

    And that is where a sense of urban space stops. No urban design concept to visualize space as amenity?

    The pretty coloured illustrations show what has been there for decades.

    Build-to lines are not prescribed, no description of how these circles can become living places.

    Why? Because land costs money and borrowing money costs even more money.

    So, apply your condescension to the destructiveness of fractional reserve banking: take on the big boys . . .

    Vancouver has an approval office, not a planning office! The Bank of England is Vancouver’s planning office!

    Oil that!

  • 94 Michael Geller // Jul 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Having travelled during the past two weeks to Valencia, Seville and Granada, I would like to highlight one area in which Vancouver excels, and these cities, and far too many other European cities fail….the management of grafitti.

    I spent Canada Day touring the Alhambra, a wonderful complex, and parts of Granada, a most beautiful city, with wonderful sidewalks, parks, canopies over the streets to provide shade, etc.

    But so many buildings are covered in grafitti…it breaks my heart to see it…. and these cities seem to have lost control…indeed, from my travels, most major European cities have lost control over the taggers and grafitti hoodlums…

    I call them hoodlums, not ‘artists’ since although there is some great grafitti art, what I see on buildings is vandalism.

    So congratulations Vancouver for the policies City Councils have put in place over the years, and let’s do everything we can to avoid the defacing of our city like the defacing of cities over here.

    Now as for what European cities can do, I have a solution…but my wife doesn’t like me to talk about it…so instead I’ll simply suggest that those caught defacing buildings should be required to clean them up…incessantly, until the buildings of Granada and Seville and Rome and Athens are as clean as those in Vancouver.

    A belated Happy Canada Day to all my friends and colleagues back home.

  • 95 Alistair // Jul 2, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Having grown up in Vancouver (spent my first 35 years there), I was quite happy for the change and moved to Europe. I thoroughly enjoy visiting Vancouver for 2 weeks each year, but as a place to live it has its pros and cons.

    The one city which captured my heart and soul completely is Amsterdam. Never have I found a city which captures everything; true beauty (buildings, people, nature), culture, lifestyle, entertainment, weather and transportation all in one multicultural world-class city. And it doesn’t hurt that it is less than 2 hours to fly to every/any other European city. The cost of living and taxes are fairly high, but that is the cost of living in a city which offers everything.

  • 96 Glissando Remmy // Jul 2, 2011 at 12:51 am

    The Thought of The Night

    ‘The first recorded prehistoric art dates back to the Stone Age. Preferred themes: Hunting, Farming, Women. Sometimes combination of two or more…Hunting Women; Women Farming; Women Hunting… From Homo erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis, Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Sapiens… to Homo Graffitiens.”

    Michael #92,

    I have a better idea. Why don’t the Vancouver City Hall sends David Cadman on a European Tour of Cities affected by graffiti, to share from his vast experience on graffiti removal!? And in return he may get some tips from the Greek and the French and the Spanish police squads on how to deal with Rioters.
    Quid pro quo.
    Just saying…:-)

    However, IMHO what they need in Europe is… better critics.

    What we need in Vancouver is… better architecture. One needs to get inspired, eh?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 97 Roger Kemble // Jul 2, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Michael @ #93

    But so many buildings are covered in graffiti . . .

    ¡Bien allí es quizá una razón de todo el pintada . . . Quizás el país está en dolor y usted esté demasiado ocupado divirtiéndose notar.

    Usted debe haber faltado esto . . . . . .

    Tourists on vacation: huh!

    Most of the buildings we admire in Europe are covered in graffiti: religious icons, Kings and ladies carved beautifully in stone!

    Vacations present opportunities to learn how others live.

    ¿Sabe usted hablar español?

  • 98 Gassy Jack's Ghost // Jul 4, 2011 at 1:41 am

    “What you cannot see or smell though, are the DTES, the disenfranchised, the addicts, the back alleys…”

    “Allow me acquaint you with the ambulatory public amenity of the DTES.”

    Roger and Glissando, two commentators I normally love to read, are spouting drivel here. 1970 is a lifetime removed from 2011, gents.

    Roger, I realize you are working on memory and nostalgia, rather than day-to-day experience of place, so let me RE-acquaint you with the public spaces you list (and noting that Lewis was talking specifically about the DEOD sub-area, not the whole DTES). But I hope I sound even more bloody condescending than you… if that’s possible.

    “Gassy Jack’s Square”
    Is actually called Maple Tree Square, or the Native “Luck-Lucky” of beautiful trees. Great square for the jazz fest 10 days ago, when the cars are blocked from entering, of course. But the tour buses that park on Powell beside the Europe made me take my life into my hands every day, blocking the view of traffic as you cross the street. A very tentative first step…

    “Pigeon Park (arguably one of Vancouver’s best public and most used, places)”
    Surely, you jest? It got a makeover during the Olympics that made it much worse. It now sits mostly vacant, abandoned even by crackheads.

    “the desecrated Goaler’s Muse (sic)”
    Yes, I agree, utterly destroyed by the glass condos and excessive density piled onto the west side. Facadism at its absolute worst.

    “Blood Alley”
    So much potential, slowly coming back to life, but yeah, Glissy, still hard to walk down without holding yer nose. City plans a makeover, but…

    “Oppenheimer Park”
    Another unwarranted, and unwanted, Olympic makeover that did little to improve, and it didn’t need it anyway. Lewis is bang-on that the one-way Powell-Cordova coupling keeps this area as a low investment zone, despite the great potential and excellent urbanism. 130,000 cars a day through a residential neighbourhood? That’s not worth noting? And the guy who collected bottles at my door on Tuesdays lives in social housing behind the poultry factory a block north, can’t open his windows for the stink and flying molt. Again, Lewis is bang on about the warehouse/social housing mix. It’s death by planning.

    “Crab Park”
    1988, not ’68. A gem most Vancouverites have probably never visited. Screaming for a connection at the foot of Carrall and west to connect to the seawall. Besides the jaw-dropping view, probably the most interesting social mix of any Vancouver park.

    “Victory Square”
    I have never found this to be a good public space. Too steep. Now becoming a doggie-doo park for the Woodwards yuppies.

    Roger missed: Keefer Square, Sun yat-Sen, McLean Park, etc…

    So yes, Roger, your list proves the point perfectly: the DTES has an incredible underlying urbanism, built pre-automobile, with a number of interesting public spaces linked by easy walking distances. There’s much to be learned here. And JJ walks were restarted a couple years back, ya know, coz some of us weren’t born in 1968…

    So, what? We subscribe to Glissando’s shallow “the alleys are full of addicts and piss”, or the world’s financiers will dominate, therefore we should just let it all rot and build condo towers to screw the urbanism? Wow. Were you guys such patsies in the 60’s and 70’s, too? No-one said it would be easy… So why don’t YOU solve the world financial scam, and let us worry about our shitty little neighbourhoods, then?

    Woodwards has made most of my old Gastown haunts close. $30 barber shops and furniture stores and trendy boutiques just ain’t my thing. I can’t afford to live here anymore. Vancouver is on a downward spiral in my opinion, and it’s really sad. I’ve spent 2 days in my new home of ______ Village, centered on two pollution spewing arterials. Some village. Some depressing life being labelled the “working poor”, when you can’t even afford to live in the city’s poorest neighbourhood.

    So, in good faith, Gassy Jack’s Ghost is forced, by geography, to retire. I can no longer live the lie that is Vancouver. So later skaters, and thank-you Frances, it was fun while it lasted.

  • 99 Glissando Remmy // Jul 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    GJG @ 96,

    You got it ALL wrong! Just WRONG!
    I was…as always, sarcastic!
    Read my words again (I assume you are referring to my comment #76)…
    Here, explanation is in ( ):

    “The Thought of The Day
    “Birds of a feather flock together. In Vancouver the most popular birds are from the Corvidae family… aka Crows.”

    (meaning that after one despicable Riot, the official word coming out of the City Hall is that we shall flock all together as if nothing had happened, and everything is just fine…NOT)

    “I wonder where and who was polled for this …
    Sean #75,
    Look again at the picture featured in the National Post.”

    (That was in re. to the National Post article linked in #75 and to the main article panorama picture of Vancouver)

    “Postcard. Picture perfect!”
    (this was pure sarcasm)

    “What you cannot see or smell though, are the DTES, the disenfranchised, the addicts, the back alleys, the Top in Canada (for the past 10 years in child poverty) Title, thanks to the now… Great Commissar Gordon Campbell, the lack of housing affordability, the totally corrupt municipal and provincial governments…shall I go on?”
    (And this is the TRUTH the way I SEE IT. BTW never mentioned …piss, OK? Read my words again, I actually tell the same story as you do, the one no one seems to be bothered with)

    “And stop me from laughing out loud, MSM reporting ‘real news’ is like winning at 6-49 Lotto, 1 chance in 14,000,000.”

    (Is MSM ever going to report the Reality or the Fiction about any subject they want it pumped up?)

    “Nobody can live in a Postcard from Portlandia.”

    (that is exactly your own conclusion GJG. No one can live in a fake postcard, from an imaginary city, so they are forced to find a real place…)

    “I’ll also let you in a little secret, all Norman Rockwell paintings were staged as well.”

    (as in all ‘feel good” 1950s postcards by Norman Rockwell, where everyone was imagining the American Dream, here we have this amazing Postcards from Vancouver telling us a different story that has nothing to do with the Reality and everything to do with Fiction. That’s why, I called it ‘staged’, because it is ‘staged’… for the tourists and for the buyers and for the ones that just found out..)
    Hence the:

    “What, you didn’t know that?”

    Gassy Jack Ghost,

    I hope you’ll read this.
    I wish you all the best. You’ll be OK.
    We have no other choice now do we?
    Be well.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

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