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More depressing news for Vancouver gripers: Others love us

August 6th, 2009 · 16 Comments

This column from San Diego is quickly making the rounds here (thanks to Gordon Price’s blog for alerting some of us to it), thanks to its lavish praise for all we do. Just when I thought the complacency might loosen its grip.

For those who can’t stand reading about how great Vancouver is — and I know that’s a club with a steady membership out there — here’s someone from San Francisco who really doesn’t like us. It’s a couple of years old, but its “Why Vancouver sucks” title has a certain timelessness.

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  • Otis Krayola

    Well, Francis, if you think the title has a certain timelessness, try reading the posts.

  • Otis Krayola

    Frances.

    I knew that.

  • gmgw

    I despise crass, kneejerk civic boosterism, and god knows we hear a lot of it in this town. Even more do I despise it when it comes from visiting journalists who not only haven’t spent enough time here to really get to know the city, warts and all, but seem to be cribbing from Board of Trade and BC Tourism handouts.

    Let’s take a look at some of what this Salm guy says.

    “Spectacularly beautiful place”– I’ve long said that if Vancouver was to magically change places with Regina, no one would look at it twice. The city is luckier than it deserves in having the setting it does. Let’s not mention the vast numbers of profiteers of assorted stripes who are working hard to destroy the beauty Salm raves about.

    “Miles of waterfront, almost all of of which is not only visible but accessible to the public”: I guess so, if you’re not talking about Burrard Inlet east of Granville, or the Fraser River east of Wreck Beach.

    “Breathtaking and meticulously maintained parks”: Well, some of them; but again, that’s an accident of geography. And while we’re on the subject, Balboa Park in SD is no slouch as parks go, either.

    “An efficient, affordable and city-blanketing (above and below ground) public transit system”: Hails of derisive laughter, Bruce. Sure, our transit system might look good to someone who doesn’t have to ride it hundreds of times a year, especially late at night, during heavy commutes, or in bad weather. But “efficient”? All I can say is that San Diego’s transit system (and the only part of it I’ve ridden on is the commuter train from downtown to Tijuana) must be absolutely ghastly for ours to look so good in comparison.

    “A magnificent (fairly) new public library in the heart of a sparkling downtown”: Evidently Salm has never been to Seattle, whose Rem Koolhaas-designed library blows ours out of the water on looks alone. Given his evident taste in architecture, though, I’ll bet Salm’s been to Vegas. Moshe Safdie’s hyper-retro piece of superkitsch might look good next door to Caesar’s Palace, but in the downtown of a city that likes to constantly brag that it’s ready for prime time, it’s an absurdist embarrassment. As for our “sparkling” downtown, I’m trying to decide what hallucinogen one would have to ingest, and in what quantities, to bring about those sparkles. Let’s hear it for Californians, still on the cutting edge of recreational pharmacology after all these years.

    “Clean streets”: Maybe to the blind. Admittedly we don’t usually have bags of garbage littering our public thoroughfares, and unidentifiable stains don’t deface most of our sidewalks, but to cite only one example, has anyone else noticed the phenomenal quantities of cigarette butts on downtown sidewalks nowadays?

    “An enlightened program to shelter the city’s homeless” : Oooo, somebody was given a copy of the Vision brag book! Second response: Hey, great news! When will this program be announced?

    “Urban planning that puts more and more emphasis on walkways and bike paths”: Bike paths, surely; but walkways? More City Hall bumpf, and complete BS at that. (Note excellent cover article on pedestrian-related issues in this week’s West Ender).

    “An energetic, ethnically diverse population”: I’m trying to think of a good Red Bull joke to insert here. If I come up with one, I’ll let you know.

    “Health care for all its citizens”: What the hell has this got to do with Vancouver???

    “Young, progressive, can-do mayor Gregor Robertson”: Choke… Paging Mr. Tsumakis!!

    I’ve been in San Diego a few times, but not in nearly 20 years; and while I didn’t exactly love the city, it hardly seemed like an urban dunghill to me. From the way this guy fawns over us, though, things must have really gone downhill since the last time I breakfasted at Hob Nob Hill (which I think may be out of business; sigh). When I see an article like this it makes me feel like the wife of an alcoholic abuser does when other women tell her what a charming and handsome husband she has: “Really?? You should try living with him, honey.” But hey, that’s just me; Mr. Proud-Of-The-Old-Home-Town. OK, I’ll get out of the way now…
    gmgw

  • Frothingham

    Having just visited San Diego for a day. I can say it’s lovely and clean. Nice people. But Vancouver is a much more energetic and lively city. At least the downtown core.

    Don’t know about SD outskirts but Van does some ugly parts to it. EG Kingsway… what a mess. And what about all those crap-ugly vancouver specials that were all the rage 10-15 years ago. BUT UGLY and they look like they are already ready for tear down.

  • I’m siding with GMGW on this one. Especially in terms of our city’s cleanliness. (Canadian cities used to be cleaner than American cities.)

    Perhaps this is a case of the grass is always greener…

  • cold water

    Visit city for a day: write a book
    Visit a city for a week: write an article
    Visit a city for a year: no need to write anything

  • OMG has this come up again? Vancouver paradise!

    And from whom else but, the one and only, professional Professor Paradise quoting from the SD navel yard’s MSM. What else do we expect? That’s how he justifies his expense account! I thought he’d gone fishing for the summer!

    Let’s see now Paradix: ten days, early spring, the cherry blossoms in east Van, walking the dog on Spanish Banks, Yaletown if your Surrey g’mum stakes you and your six room mates for a couple of years, peek view of the Lions if you stand on the upper slopes bathroom counter, Drummond Drive and Kerrisdale if you’re into compound interest: yup para-roll-thu-dice! Yunno on and on!

    I wish VPD knew something about city design!

    1996 I left “Paradix” to live in one of the ten most expensive cities in the world: Mexico City. ¡Viva en un hotel en historico del centro con servicio de la criada tambien: Muy conveniente! And my living expenses were halved . . . Reading La Jornada y El News regularly and watching Azteca y Televisa I never once came upon the phrase “world class”. As for views . . . the people were the view . . . magnifico . . .

    The Olympix? A few score of hyper-oids who’ve bought in gawked at by a few mindless jerks will have to do deep therapy after the fun . . .

    Get used to it Vancouver is no different to any other nuevo speculator driven, international dump conurbation . . . and don’t hold your schadenfreude breath it will collapse.

    Hey, but it’s home . . .

    And it will go on forever so long and eager young punks get a hard on doing mayhem for the banksters and their billions.

    Vancouver: the willful destruction of a magnificent setting! Do your best to pay the rent and get used to PPP’s blather . . .

  • david m.

    wow, you folks are crazy, esp gmgw. vancouver is hella boring, obv, but it’s definitely waaaaaaayyyy cleaner than any big california city. koolhaas’ monstrosity in seattle is the embarrassment (moshe’s library in vancouver is an ironic functionalist masterpiece and the plebs like it too, so tant mieux). gregor kicks ass on any other big city mayor, even david miller – seriously, live elsewhere, esp here in california. the homeless problem is way better managed in vancouver than in american west coast cities. the parks may be boring, but there are so many of them that it doesn’t really matter (now if we could only drink wine in them with without being tossed in the tank). and despite the current anti-olympics sentiment, i can tell you that it’s raising the city’s profile in a very positive way for an entire generation.

    for sure, transit in vancouver could use a bit boost, it’s practically a police state (seriously, ticketing jaywalking = 1984), and the city has a heart of glass/does everything possible to suffocate whatever non-paying fun my pop up. but still, aside from the weather, i’d take it over san diego any day. if there more to do, i could even see myself living there.

  • gmgw

    Some responses to david m.:

    “wow, you folks are crazy, esp gmgw.”

    And proud of it.

    “vancouver is hella boring, obv, but it’s definitely waaaaaaayyyy cleaner than any big california city.”

    Well, thank you for that oddly contradictory comment. Personally, I’d much rather be in an interesting dirty city any old time than a (relatively, in this case) clean boring city.

    “koolhaas’ monstrosity in seattle is the embarrassment (moshe’s library in vancouver is an ironic functionalist masterpiece and the plebs like it too, so tant mieux).”

    The Seattle library is admitttedly functionally problematic on the inside, but at least its interior strives to be innovative, while its exterior shell is extraordinary by any measure. As for the alleged functionalism of VPL’s main branch, its risible exterior (you can call it”ironic” if you like, but one can easily OD on irony) is, unlike the Koolhaas structure, merely a fancy retro box that contains a perfectly normal, blockish, institutional building. Once you get through the concourse and enter the main building, the novelty abruptly stops (and anyone who works there can tell you how dysfunctional the place really is). And if the admiration of the “plebs” was really a valid way of evaluating good architecture, North American cities would all look like Disneyland (which for some of them would represent a dramatic improvement).

    “gregor kicks ass on any other big city mayor, even david miller – seriously, live elsewhere, esp here in california. ”

    Get in touch when you re-enter our solar system.

    “the homeless problem is way better managed in vancouver than in american west coast cities.”

    I’m truly sorry to hear that.

    “the parks may be boring, but there are so many of them that it doesn’t really matter (now if we could only drink wine in them with without being tossed in the tank).”

    What, you never heard of paper bags? And what’s with this strange attraction you feel for boredom?

    “and despite the current anti-olympics sentiment, i can tell you that it’s raising the city’s profile in a very positive way for an entire generation.”

    An entire generation of what? Consisting of whom? People who don’t have to live here and deal with the multiple consequences (both short- and long-term)?

    “for sure, transit in vancouver could use a bit boost, it’s practically a police state (seriously, ticketing jaywalking = 1984),”

    File this under ‘comically disproportionate comments’. ‘Oh man, I had to walk two blocks on a hot day to buy a case of beer! It was worse than the Bataan death march!’ By the way, what on earth does jaywalking have to do with transit??

    “and the city has a heart of glass/”

    Please, let’s not drag Blondie into this.

    “does everything possible to suffocate whatever non-paying fun my pop up.”

    Jeez, it really *is* worse than the Bataan death march, isn’t it? Why, just last week, we were enjoying a hot game of Parcheesi when, suddenly, Gregor’s stormtroopers kicked the door in… Here’s a coupla helpful tips, pal: A) “Fun” is a subjective concept. B) It’s up to you to make your own fun (‘course, if your idea of ‘fun’ involves, say, the drinking of large amounts of wine in public parks, you probably are going to get ‘suffocated’, and rightly so).

    “but still, aside from the weather, i’d take it over san diego any day.”

    Well, personally, I’d rather live in La Jolla than, say, Marpole, but that’s just me.

    “if there more to do, i could even see myself living there.”

    Well, maybe you need to do just that for a while before you offer any more helpful commentary. Until then, however, you’re gonna be just another tourist, seeing everything that’s Vancouverish through the rose-coloured filters of Touristovision. And in that uncritical and wholly accepting light, even Medicine Hat can look pretty good at times.
    gmgw

  • SV

    Ok GMGW you killed me with the Blondie bit.

    And I continue to love Urbanismo’s posts, esp. when I have to remind myself that VPD=the parks board and not the popo.

  • david m.

    hehe

    Here’s a coupla helpful tips, pal: A) “Fun” is a subjective concept. B) It’s up to you to make your own fun (’course, if your idea of ‘fun’ involves, say, the drinking of large amounts of wine in public parks, you probably are going to get ’suffocated’, and rightly so).

    no! i need my booze in the park!

  • Mary

    sadly homelessness isn’t truly being “managed” here at all, and what passes for management in the US is actually incarceration: “The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate,[3][4] and total documented prison population in the world.[3][5][6]”(Wikipedia) . To lay claim to management we would have to be addressing (or even making an honest attempt to address) the underlying causes of homelessness: mental illness and addiciton. Addressing has to incude the full range of prevention and treatment, and, in the case of addiction, enforcement of laws re: importing, trafficking etc. Our pathetic appoach to enforcement consists of issuing jaywalking tickets to those who cross in the middle of the street to avoid the street dealer to whom they owe money, or the bad date they remember, or to catch up to the guy who owes them 10 bucks, etc. It solves nothing.

    And why do we continue to do this silly comparison thing? It’s a mugs game, and only highlights our fundamental insecurity and shallowness.

  • jimmy olson

    david m… . when you are next in vancouver during the months of july and august, do wonder up to suburbia … Confederation Park in Burnaby on a Sunday . Not only can you drink wine and espressos with brandy or grappa but you can get some very good italian food as well. and play bocce etc. fun!

  • MB

    Try living in Calgary for a few months. You’ll come away with a better appreciation for Vancouver.

  • gmgw

    MB issued the following challenge:
    “Try living in Calgary for a few months. You’ll come away with a better appreciation for Vancouver.”

    You could insert the name of a great many cities (Spokane? Prince George? Bratislava? Ulan Bator?) into that sentence. An extended visit to any of them would likely boost one’s appreciation of Vancouver. Why pick solely on poor old Gucci-redneck Calgary?

    However, to be fair, some kind of parallel declaration should also be devised, eg. “Try living in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, or Tokyo for a few months. You’ll come back with a much better understanding of the difference between a city that’s desperate to be seen as ‘world class’, and a city that actually is.”
    gmgw

  • tessa

    gmwg, while you may not appreciate the downtown library, I rather do. And while Seattle’s library is certainly stunning, I find that’s all it is, and to be honest I find it much more tacky and much less useful than the Vancouver one, and I especially enjoy the reading areas on the balcony.

    But really, this seems like a battle between the City’s boosters, wearing rose coloured glasses, and you, who appear to have tripped and fallen into a pile of dog crap which was rudely left on the sidewalk, and that’s all you can see now.

    Vancouver has serious problems, but having spent the first 20 years of my life there, and now living in Saskatchewan, I can tell you people would like Vancouver a lot more than Regina is currently liked if the two were to trade places. I, for one, would choose Vancouver any day, and I’m one who was priced out of the City, to the point where I actually moved. Aside from being home, it has an attitude and culture, a wonderful mix of people and activities, great (and cheap) food (to the point where eating out is pretty much cheaper than cooking), vibrant neighbourhoods and plenty of recreational opportunities (snowboarding, anyone? Those mountains aren’t just a backdrop). The Vancovuer I enjoy when I visit is the only one I’ve known with such a strong slam poetry community, and even has plenty of great architecture for parkour and manhunt games.

    Either way, the debate should be about more than just the stereotypes of the City – ugly yaletown towers, homelessness vs. beautiful mountains and lots of waterfront. These are important issues, but it’s just scratching the surface. And if we’re going to have this debate, let’s at least have it in a tone that accepts other people’s opinions, for example that they might like the main library or they might like Gregor Robertson, and that doesn’t mean they’re in another solar system.