Frances Bula header image 2

Vancouver seen from the LA end of the telescope

January 12th, 2010 · 17 Comments

Everyone is passing this story around, the LA Times’ take on Vancouver.

It seems to be a grab bag of the standard themes, occasional small mistakes (a Safeway in with the Home Depot on Cambie? I think not), and the usual critics saying that it might look to the easily dazzled as though Vancouver did everything right but, underneath, there are all these problems. Yes, Detroit can only hope for such problems.

A sinking feeling as I read it. How many more of these stories will we have to endure in the next year.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Westender

    The sentence structure is a bit odd: “There’s a boutique Home Depot not far away and a Safeway that squats on a second floor, above smaller street-level shops.” But I think the author is referring to our great new “second floor” Safeway at Robson and Denman. (Perhaps they missed the elevator in the IGA at Burrard and Smithe?)

  • Joe Just Joe

    When I read the article I also thought that was in reference to the Safeway on Robson. I did not the reference of only US stores though (home depot, costco, safeway) guess IGA save on foods, future shop, Canadian Tire wouldn’t mean much to their target audience.

  • Kevin C

    Maybe the Safeway at Cambie and 12th?

  • Joolz Unit

    I really wish this dumb ass would shut up about new schools. He’s fucking clueless about schools and the process needed to open one.

    “We’ve become the North American model that you can’t ignore,” said city planning director Brent Toderian. “We’re the only North American downtown to have opened a new elementary school — think about it — and we’re about to open another one. And it’s not because we’re all utopians here. It’s a willingness to have vision, and then back it up with regulation and willpower.”

  • LA Times ” . . . a grab bag of the standard themes, occasional small mistakes . . . ” Oh really!

    “VANCOUVERISM” the word! Don’t be surprised to find it is a concoction of Burson-Marsteller: yunno the babies/incubators people.

    My hometown Scarborough, Yorkshire was called “The Queen of Watering Places”. It acquired the appellation, well before B-M, by virtue of a stinky little drip of water that came out of a muddy cliff and onto the beach.

    Except it didn’t reach the beach. Instead it was harnessed into a life giving, “world-class” health antidote to everything from hemorrhoids to voting for Gordon Campbell.

    The town started as a Celtic fishing village well before the Romans and eventually degenerated into a health scam promoted by “The Victorians”.

    “The Victorians” built a complete edifice around “the drip”: ball rooms, restaurants, band stand, salons, domes, colonnades and promenades from which could be appreciate the indubitable VIEW, all done-up in true faux classic, bright sandstone pastiche . . . Trevor would love it!

    And you wouldn’t believe the line up, mile upon mile, of charrabangs bringing thousands of day-trippers to imbibe those phuccin’ Spa Waters”! The Chamber of Commerce loved it!

    That was then. This is now . . . “Thu drip” has been eclipsed by Benidorm because the fish and chips are better there.

  • I was particularly bewildered by this bit:

    “It also means using public financing — loan guarantees kept the Olympic village from imploding during the economic downturn — and sometimes mixing millionaires and immigrant welfare recipients in the same building. Public agencies and private developers often wade into the same project, each financing their own parts.”

    Really? Immigrant welfare recipients? Do we have lots of those in Canada?

    Also, “sometimes mixing millionaires and…welfare recipients in the same building”? Shouldn’t that be “so far, promising to do so once?”

  • Dan Cooper

    How about that blythe comparison of the Fraser Valley to Orange County, California? Happily, I think the author is off on that.

    p.s. @ Joe Just Joe: IGA and Future Shop are also in the US…..

  • Blaffergassted

    The story has a terrific assessment of:

    * our over-reliance on government employment;
    * the loss of resource-based employment; and
    * the dysfunctional Metro governance system.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Thanks about the info on IGA I always thought it was limited to BC/Alberta but you learn something everyday. As for Future shop though they haven’t had any US stores in years, the company performed badly down south and closed shop.

  • FBT

    Dan, Dan, Dan,

    Future Shop has not had US locations for over 10 years now, however they are owned by BestBuy which operates under their own banner down there as well as up in Canada.

    IGA in BC is owned by the Louie Family, (not Raymond Louie who I’m not sure if he is related to Brandt, Kurt, and Andrea (?) who are children of Tong who’s father H.Y. Louie of course founded the company)

    They are not affiliated in any way to IGA stores, other than by name anywhere else in Canada or the USA.

    You should have stopped before your ps.

  • dazzle me

    bah, iga is iga. there are all sorts of distributors and different people own different parts of the distribution networks across north america, but iga is iga. like coke bottling plants or that network of drug shops (shopping drug mart?) – trust me, you’ve been to one iga, you’ve been to them all.

    as for the article, one has to take it within the los angeles context. what i’m getting from it is that “yeah, a nice place to visit, but not something that we could try here without all sorts of disruption” line. it’s a strange way to look at it, but oddly consistent with the general angelinon weltanschauung.

    if this is the worst that hits vancouver in the media, that’d be peachy. personally, just wait until we get le monde eviscerating the soullessly consistent sea foam skyline, the (not always suburban) rubes with their mindlessly chants and roots exercise clothes, the absurd “pubs” and the utah-like alcohol control, the blandly utilitarian urban design, the constant rain, the hardcore security perimeters, the lack of public space, the crackheads breathing crack in the faces of lost tourists, etc.

  • Frankly, I’m wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Are they wrong? Nevermind the occasional detail or one’s interpretation of which Safeway and where.

    I don’t think so. I think it’s a pretty fair assessment. The truth often hurts, but many of you kowtowed to the Beasleys and now Toderians. Tough.

    Blaffer’s comments are right on.

    I have often thought that we have built a reputation on sand…..

    Many things we consider sacred: Sustainability, eco-everything, etc. just aren’t what we have deluded ourselves they are. We force-feed these initiatives and often to extremes.

    We try to compare with Rotterdam or Berlin or some other European city, without one scintilla of consideration for if those initiatives that we find desirable will work. But we go off headlong, no concerted plan, just all in, no doubling-down for us.

    We’ve ignored the most needy in this town, and keep displacing them from one neighborhood to another, as we gentrify FIRST, accommodate lives at some point later.

    We allow minority movements, like the cycling fascists, to run our bridges, we lie down hand our view corridors and public golf courses to the natives so they won’t shriek. We pretend that we are ‘green’ but have endured a bike lane trial that has only added to our emission/pollution quotient.

    We nonsensically try to compare EXPO and the Olympics…all to make ourselves feel better.

    We have been censored of our rights to free speech by VANOC. We don’t allow smoking in private cigar clubs, but when 5,000 losers smoke dope in public, the police sit on their thumbs and many of you start talking horse shit about how much less harmful dope is than knitting.

    The Ford Theatre dies a painful death and nary a few columns in the Sun, but when bloody Bob Rennie opens some gallery loaded with “art”, you fawn all over him.

    Sorry folks. We are not the civil or interesting society we think we are. Funcouver? Sure, if you’re a drunk, young thug standing outside the Roxy at 3am on a Saturday. That’s our culture.

    No public readings. Public amenities like the conservatory and petting zoo are closed in favour of pouring dollars into untendered contracts to pals of Jolly Green Gregor, but hardly a burp from you my dear.

    We want piecemeal solutions to everything, for everything, but haven’t the foggiest clue how to plan a whole city, instead frothing at the mouth about the latest, unnecessary glass and concrete monstrosity.

    By the time Vision’s first term is done, we’ll have had nine years of directionless civic govt. that have not advanced one iota on anything that was first identified as problematic a decade ago. not one.

    We want to fight crime, but we set up lawless “shelters” in neighborhoods of people too terrified to take advantage of the walkways we’ve paid for in multiples.

    And when we walk those paths, how many are saying ‘Good Morning’ as they walk past? How many women should look over their shoulders, because we wail away when the feds want to tighten laws for sickos.

    We ache for more places of safe harbour for people to fill their veins with what’s killing them, under the thinly veiled (false) guise of compassion. And when faced with REAL evidence we dismiss it as a political argument. Meanwhile ODs are up. Near death episodes too.
    But we kiss the ass of ever researcher who will tell us that we’re being innovative and caring. Meanwhile the millions of wasted dollars are falling into white lab coats while we pontificate and pat ourselves on the back.

    Sorry folks. We have lots of work to do. And we’ve yet to start.

    Bitching and whining about the LA Times’ accuracy ain’t a productive exercise, because we’ve done this to ourselves. Few of us have been consistent over the years.

    But we live in Vancouver, and this makes us happy (with respects to Glissy)

    You earned this, sorry to say. So enjoy.

  • Frances Bula

    Alex, I wasn’t saying the writer was wrong so much as cliched.

    Everyone who comes here loves to tell only two stories.

    1. Vancouver is a marvel

    2. Oh, it seems like Vancouver is a marvel, but really there’s a dark side (the Downtown Eastside, the sprawl outside the downtown developments, the blandness of the new developments or whatever.)

    Reporters and critics who fancy themselves investigators who dig beneath the surface like to go for Narrative No. 2.

    There was nothing really terrible about this article (and I was wrong about the Safeway — forgot about the one on Robson and the mention of Home Depot nearby made me think the writer was referring to the Rise complex for both).

    It was a broad summary of all the conventional wisdom about Vancouver which I guess is interesting to people who don’t know the city that well.

    But it all just seems kind of boring and cliched. Despite what you like to imagine, all of these issues have been covered to death, including the Ford Theatre.

  • Joseph Jones

    FB: “only two stories”

    According to some counts, that leaves another thirty-four stories to pursue. Sometimes story lines even lead to cases of ad hominem!

  • gmgw

    Dan Cooper said:
    “How about that blythe comparison of the Fraser Valley to Orange County, California? Happily, I think the author is off on that.”

    On the contrary, as someone who’s spent a deal of time in both, I would say the comparison is quite apt, if you exclude the obvious consideration of climate. Both Orange County and the Fraser Valley are prime showcases for the worst kinds of suburban sprawl and unrestrained development, notably of vast housing subdivisions, shopping malls and big-box stores. Both are heavily automobile-dependent, being sadly lacking in public-transit amenities, necessitating vast networks of freeways and arterial roads and a high proportion of vehicle ownership. Both have large recent- immigrant populations, with parts of the Fraser Valley having large East Indian communities, while the dominant immigrant communities in Orange County are Vietnamese and Latino. Both regions are largely self-contained mixes of urban and suburban areas on the outskirts of a very large urban community. Both have serious problems with air quality (largely thanks to all those cars), though Orange County, like all of California, is being far more pro-active in dealing with their air-quality problem than the Fraser Valley is theirs. Both areas are extremely conservative politically, with a high proportion of religious fundamentalists; not surprisingly, both regions tend to consistently elect very conservative politicians to office (there’s really not a whole lot of difference, ideologically speaking, between Kevin Falcon and the likes of “Bomber Bob” Dornan). Both regions encompass wealthy neighbourhoods (in the case of Orange County, some of the wealthiest communities in the whole country) as well as extremely poor areas. Both have severe problems with youth gangs and Asian crime syndicates. And lastly, both regions are constrained by geography: Both Orange County and the Fraser Valley are bordered by mountain ranges to the north, and while the Valley abuts the US border to the south, Orange County drops off into the Pacific Ocean.

    But what, you ask, are the differences between the two? Well, here’s some things that Orange County has that the Fraser Valley is sadly lacking (and which wouldn’t work there, anyway):
    1. Disneyland.
    2. The exquisite Mission San Juan Capistrano (and several other, lesser-known missions as well).
    3. Beaches.
    4. A far more salubrious climate, apart from the January storms.
    4. Laguna Beach, proof that even if a community is wealthy, it doesn’t have to be ostentatious about it (unlike Newport Beach to the immediate north).
    5. DVD Planet in Huntington Beach, my favourite DVD retailer anywhere (and the lowest-priced).
    6. Last but decidedly not least: Palm trees.

    Funny thing about palms: You could plant a hundred of them (and I mean the big date palms, not the frightened little fan palms that seem to be cropping up more and more around our town, despite our miserable climate) along the streets of Langley City, and it would still be the craphole it is. Yet there are sections of Orange County that are as bleak as any suburban neighbourhood in North America, and somehow the ubiquitous palms lend those neighbourhoods an air of exoticism, and even a curious sort of beauty, that I simply can’t explain. I guess I’m just a naive tourist at heart.

  • “We allow minority movements, like the cycling fascists, to run our bridges….”

    From a 2000 Industry Canada report:

    Over 40 percent of Canadians participate in bicycling and over 52 percent of
    Canadian households have one or more adult bicycles. Bicycling is ranked
    fourth behind walking, gardening, and swimming as one of Canada’s most popular
    recreational activities.

  • Bill Smolick

    Apparently there’s a lighthouse on Point Grey now: