Ideas and Opinions
Once upon a time, people only wanted to spend time in the city for employment and then retreat safely to the privacy of their suburban homes. But there is a new generation of city dwellers who choose to live in cities because they want be around creativity, commerce, culture and mainly other people, even if they don’t know them.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved high impact workouts. I used to run almost daily and compete in long distance races - from 10km to marathons. As with age comes wisdom (and a few injuries and health issues), I’ve now realized that my favourite way to exercise, reduce stress and heal my body, mind and spirit, is to walk.
Lately I’ve become fascinated with trees and their role in urban life. I live in a neighbourhood where every street is lined with big beautiful trees. They provide shelter from winter rain and shade from summer heat, reflect sunshine off their lush green leaves and some even bloom with pink cherry blossoms in the spring.
Ever since my husband and I moved to Commercial Drive five years ago (a Vancouver neighbourhood also known as Grandview-Woodland), I have never wanted to live anywhere else in the city. I’ve lived in the suburbs, and various parts of Vancouver since I was a child, including Main Street, Yaletown, International Village, Marpole/Arbutus, Cambie Village and Fairview Slopes. Yet Commercial Drive is the area where I feel most at home in the city.
In order for a city to thrive, it needs diversity on every level: in race, age, workforce, arts, economy and of course, income. Too many rich people creates a retirement/ resort community and too many poor people creates a ghetto. Unfortunately, you can’t have income diversity without housing diversity, and Vancouver is severely lacking in providing desirable housing to the middle class, so many of them are leaving.
As a frequent pedestrian in downtown Vancouver, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been run over by some impatient driver trying to turn right, not noticing that the crosswalk sign was on and that I have the right of way.
“The Green Zone is our legacy for future generations.”
Former Port Coquitlam Mayor Len Trabouley
Vancouver has a reputation for its natural beauty, but few are aware that a decision was made years ago to ensure it stays that way.
I was on a mini break in Seattle over the Easter Weekend and was excited to check out the recently closed (and soon to be demolished) Alaska Way Viaduct. I didn’t expect to see this:
I’ve written before about how much I enjoy living in a small home in a walkable neighbourhood. Apparently I am not the only one. Real estate trends, urban planning theorists, and architects in North America are coming to the realization that more and more young people - Generation Y - and even their soon-to-be- empty nest parents, want a smaller home. And not just anywhere, they want it in a walkable community. Most of thoseGeneration Yers don’t even want to own a car!
Vancouver, like New York City, is a city of neighbourhoods with distinct personalities: Kitsilano is home to yoga/beach worshippers, Main Street has its hipster vibe; Commercial Drive is an eclectic mix of activists, lesbians, and bohemians; Yaletown is full of upscale yuppies; the West End is the Village; Chinatown and Little India are ethnic enclaves; Coal Harbour is full of offshore investors; then there is the historic district of Gastown and - Canada’s poorest postal code - the Downtown Eastside.
Yesterday was the first time I came across Grandma’s Boy, Vancouver’s recently discovered ghost sign from 1922. Finally seeing the sign up close was like discovering your grandma’s diary in a sock drawer. The sign itself is nothing beautiful, but the sense of history is. I felt transported back to a time I wasn’t even around to experience…
I came across this excerpt while reading City Making in Paradise by Ken Cameron and Mike Harcourt. It paints a clear picture of what the Vancouver region was like over 60 years ago…
The Urban Futures Survey started in 1973. It generated invaluable data on local citizens opinions and values about their region, ultimately helping craft Metro Vancouver’s first Livable Regions Strategy in 1976.
Nobody really likes filling out a survey, but this one is particularly important to people living in Metro Vancouver.
Recently, Vancouver Magazine published an article with the title ”Vancouver Men Suck.” I won’t get into the details of the article, but basically it suggested that men in this city are lazy, poorly dressed, unambitious goons who have lost the art of chivalry. Not surprisingly, Vancouver men responded in droves, claiming that Vancouver women are the ones who suck because they are pretentious, shallow, unfriendly gold diggers. After reading both viewpoints, it seemed to me that both sexes feel that the city is a cold, harsh place to meet new people and potential partners.
One of the saddest urban stories of 2011 in Vancouver was the teardown of the historic Pantages Theatre at 152 E. Hastings. It was the oldest theatre in Vancouver, the oldest remaining Pantages theatre in North America, and one of the oldest purpose-built vaudeville theatre interiors in Canada.
What does shopping local mean to cities and communities? According to the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, $0.68 of every dollar you spend locally stays in your local community (while only 46 cents of each dollar spent at big box retailers stayed in local communities). And this is just the tangible monetary benefits, imagine if we factored in the sense of authenticity and community we get from spending time in neighbourhoods with local businesses vs. big box stores.
Leave it to Gordon Price, Vancouver urban planning expert and former Vancouver city councillor, to answer this question quite succinctly:
“Nothing can affect day-to-day life more quickly and profoundly than a decision at the municipal level. Or a failure at the municipal level.”
I just got back from a ladies weekend in Las Vegas and if there is one urban query I took away from the whole trip, it was: where on Earth do they get all this water in the middle of a desert?? Maybe it is because we were staying at the Bellagio Hotel, where every hour a giant man-made pond spurts water into the air to the tunes of Celine Dion and Faith Hill.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened on Wednesday night. When I was leaving my office from downtown Vancouver (to watch the game at a friend’s place near Granville Island), I saw wave after wave of young kids under the age of 25 streaming into the Downtown core off the Skytrain. It was already 4:30pm. There was no way these people were going to get into the live site or a bar, for that matter.
- Because we killed “urban renewal”
- Because you might see a whale in False Creek.
- Because Jimi Hendrix used to live in Strathcona.
- Because Chip Wilson got women out of sweatpants.
- Because we export our approach to planning all over the world.
A new site called – Citytank asked for short essays on why cities matter. I really like the response by Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillour and urbanist, about the hope and future of the suburbs (it also fits with the ideas expressed in my recent blog post). Here is his response.
I don’t have a moment where I realized I wanted to move to Vancouver, because I was born here. But, I do remember when I realized that I did not want to live anywhere else. It was about 10 years ago. I had been living in Ottawa during the winter for four months while working as a student for the Canadian government and I missed this city badly. When I came back, I would stare at the mountains like a drooling puppy with its head out the window on a car ride. I couldn’t believe how beautiful this part of the world is and how much I took it for granted because it’s always been home.
I was having dinner with my girlfriends one Friday night a few weeks ago and we got into a conversation about the ideal place to live. In a city like Vancouver, where houses that look like crack shacks can sell for over a million dollars, citizens often have to make sacrifices – ultimately between size vs. location – when it comes to buying a home.
When my husband and I were looking to move, we made the decision that location was important and were lucky enough to find a newly converted heritage home two blocks off Commercial Drive, however we actually only own 1/3 of it. The house has been split into 3 units: we live in the front portion of the house on two levels, and there is a garden suite that runs on the basement level, and the another unit at the back of the house (also the top two floors).
Last Sunday, the London Times published this article about Prince Charles Foundation for the Built Environment (PFBE) and its focus on promoting sustainable housing. Reading it took me back to last summer, when I had the opportunity to participate in the PFBE Foundation’s Summer School.
It sounded like a glamourous opportunity to sit in esteemed lecture halls and take architectural walking tours. Little did I know that it would involve a lot of time getting my hands dirty – doing things like building dry stone walls, thatching a roof, plastering a ceiling….and getting up close and personal with HRH Prince of Wales.
Considering the subject of my thesis was evaluating the consultation process with businesses along the Canada Line (Vancouver’s latest rapid transit system to the airport), I feel the need to weigh in on the recent news about Susan Heyes’ court case (Heyes used to have a business located along the Canada Line construction route). It is a classic case of how a public private partnership can lead to challenges in public consultation when delivering a major infrastructure project.
A great discussion in the online zine The Tyee, between SFU Urban Studies (my alma mater) professor, Matt Hern, and Vancouver Urbanist, Lance Berelowitz, on whether or not the Olympics made Vancouver more vibrant.