Programs

Downtown Eastside

MOVments: Good Neighbours, Good Neighbourhoods

This week we explore what it means to be a good neighbour in Vancouver. From humans living side by side with insects, to getting along with our green-thumbed neighbours, to heritage buildings coexisting with new housing developments in the Downtown Eastside, we find that being a good neighbour involves working on our interpersonal skills, embracing diversity, and being prepared for a little bit of conflict.
 
Five-Star Insect Hotel. The Environmental Youth Alliance, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, has built a habitat for bees in the Oak Meadows Park at 37th and Oak. The hope is that with bee populations on the decline, the converted telephone booth will attract a thriving insect population to a corridor of green space in the area. We love the idea of upcycling increasingly obsolete phone booths for the purpose too!
 
Food Fights. To those who thought there was no dark side to the proliferation of urban gardens in the city, guess again. While positives like sustainable food sources, job creation, and community engagement far outweigh negatives,The Vancouver Sun reports that urban green spaces can cause neighbourly disputes. And there's also the complicated matter of commercial property getting tax breaks when used for temporary community gardens.
 
Heritage in the DTES. With all the talk of gentrification in the DTES, it's easy to ignore another issue confronting the neighbourhood: the loss of heritage buildings. With a possible Local Area Plan that would see some 10,000 residents move into the area, local historian James Johnstone argues that protecting historical buildings has become all the more important. But some tough questions remain: what happens when historical preservation is at odds with new social housing developments?
 
At the MOVeum:
 
August 15 - Redacted Readings
October 2 - Legacy Dinner
 
[Image: Rainbow chard in Vancouver community garden. Photo by Steph L via Flickr]

MOVments: So Close and So Far

 
This week in MOVments we look at the ideas of proximity and distance in relation to transportation, services, tourist attractions, and more. We explore some stats on how Vancouverites are getting from point A to point B, funding community-specific services in the DTES, how a beach is benefiting from being close to the MOV, and a venue that at least one person feels is a little too close to its neighbours. 
 
Getting There. recent report to City Council revealed a dramatic increase in walking and cycling as modes of transportation in the city, with driving trips on a slight decline. Significantly, the proportion of women and girls walking and biking has also grown, which is "seen to be an indicator of the quality and safety of a city’s infrastructure." All of this is so good that some think we should actually be doing a little more braggingAnd speaking of sustainable transportation, check out these neat side-by-side videos of the same Skytrain route: one from today and one from 1986.
 
DTES Services. Two organizations that work closely with the DTES community are receiving funding from the City for continuing and expanded servicesWISH will receive a grant for expanded work with survival sex trade workers and the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS) will receive money for their ongoing Residential Tenancy Branch. 
 
Kits Beach Hits the Big Time. Kitsilano Beach made it on to Reuters Top 10 City Beaches Around the World list. One of its selling points? Its proximity to this museum and other cultural attractions; the listing recommends hitting the beach as a stop on a jam-packed day of Vancouver sightseeing. 
 
Keep the WISE Alive. East Vancouver's WISE Hall has received a number of noise complaints in the past few months. While the complaints seem to be coming from one newcomer to the neighbourhood, Metro News reports that the event and live music venue is not taking any chances and has started a campaign to raise funds for additional soundproofing of the building. 
 
At the MOVeum:

June 19 - From Here to There: Stories of Food, Energy, and Transitioning to Resilient Communities
June 26 - Upcycled Urbanism Volunteer Orientation night
July 6 - Curator’s Talk & Tour Foncie's Fotos w/ Joan Seidl
July 13 - Upcycled Urbanism: A Design+Build Project for Everyone - Granville Street Build Day

[Image: Kits Beach, 1920s. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 770-92]

MOVments: A Bump in the Road (and the Bike Path, and the Bridge...)

This week Gordon Price's post about the worst streets in BC (that's right, Vancouver's own BC Parkway bike path comes in second on the list) got us thinking about bumpy roads more figuratively. From uneven law enforcement when it comes to jaywalking, to a bridge that's on its last legs, to a neighbourhood that could use a bit of a shake up, we're exploring the cracks and rough edges in our rugged city. 
 
The High Price of Crossing the Street in the DTES. The Vancouver Police Department is getting flack from DTES advocacy groups who are calling them out for seemingly discriminatory policing practices around jaywalking. Pivot Legal Society and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users point to the fact that over 2,000 tickets have been handed out over the last four years in the DTES, compared to zero over the same period in Kerrisdale and Dunbar. 
 
How to Solve a Problem like the Pattullo. So the Pattullo Bridge that connects New West to Surrey is getting old. Like 75 years old to be exact. And lately it's become a bit of a hazard. Options being shopped around for its replacement range from a pedestrian/cyclist-only route, to an 8-lane bridge, to just getting rid of it all together. 
 
A Neighbourhood Less Travelled. So, while foreign investment driving up housing prices may be a myth, the fact remains that a number of condos in Coal Harbour (and other areas) are occupied by part-time residents. What does this mean for the culture of the neighbourhood? Well, quieter streets, but also less lively streets and less opportunity for local business. More on 'Cold Harbour' here.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Pattullo Bridge, 1938. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 260-884]

MOVments: Budding Relationships and Blossoming Civic Systems

Over at the MOV, we've been excitedly welcoming the cherry blossoms all over the city (seriously, so excited). And with the arrival of these new buds, there are a whole host of other fresh starts and new beginnings in Vancouver. This week check in with Vancouver's new proposed digital strategy, the start of greener garbage collection, and something that seems like an end, but what we hope will blossom as a new future possibility: the retirement of advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves.

Born Digital. On April 9, City Council met to discuss Vancouver's first ever digital strategy that, if adopted, would mean a huge shift in how the city processes licenses and permits as well as a significant expansion in the availability of free wi-fi. Sounds pretty good, but are there any concerns? Of course. Nikolas Badminton over at the Huffington Post blog suggests the strategy doesn't do enough: "I feel it is a safe governmental play that drags us to be where we should be right now in 2013, but with full implementation not until 2016. At that point we'll be four years behind."

Hello, Green Garbage. Starting in May, the City will be implementing a new garbage pick up system that aims to reduce materials being sent to the landfill. Food scraps will be picked up once a week and garbage only once every two weeks. As the Globe and Mail reports, "It’s part of a push to recycle all organics in Metro Vancouver by 2015, a move that is supposed to result in 70 per cent of the region’s garbage being recycled." The next step will be sorting out all the food waste storage dilemas for those of us in small apartments, but we know we're up for the challenge.
 
End of an Advocacy Era? And just as these two new systems are beginning, a vital position serving Vancouver's homeless community appears to be coming to and end. Judy Graves, the City's only full-time advocate for the homeless, will be retiring this May with no word on if she will be replaced. Here's hoping that her legacy will help make advocacy work a priority in the future. As Judy told The Tyee: "I think it's important to have an informed advocate within the system who can speak truth to power. It's very easy for government to start believing its own spin."
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Cherry blossoms. Photo by Geoffery Kehrig via Flickr]

MOVments: The (In)Visible City

Our upcoming Visible City online exhibit and app has got us thinking more broadly about the relationship between the highly visible aspects of our city and the less conspicuous civic spaces and moments. From Native history, to informal bike paths, to the BC Bollywood awards, it seems that more often than not, the seen and the unseen exist in close proximity in Vancouver.
 
Shining a Light on Native History. “In the silent solitude of the primeval forest, he drove a wooden stake in the earth and commenced to measure an empty land.” That's how a Vancouver heritage plaque describes Lauchlan Alexander Hamilton as he surveyed the land that would become Vancouver. Of course, the land was not an empty wilderness and members of the First Nations community are trying to set the record straight. Another development that would make contemporary Native culture and history much more visible is this proposal for six longhouses to be built in the DTES. And on a similarly enlightening note, this recent Vancouver Sun article highlights the large First Nations collection at the MOV. 
 
On the Road. A proposal for a separated bike path linking New Westminster to South Vancouver would make cyclists more visible along Marine Way. Currently, riders seem to have created their own unofficial bike route along a ditch to avoid cycling on the busy freeway. If the New Westminster branch of HUB (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) gets their way, a two way bike lane separated by a cement barrier would be installed in the area.
 
Bollywood/BC. This Saturday saw the Times of India Film Awards held at BC Place Stadium. For many Bollywood fans, the glitz, glamour, and spectacle surrounding the event meant that it could hardly go unnoticed, however, others were less enthusiastic. Some have been critical of the $11 million doled out by the provincial government to hold it in Vancouver, others blamed high ticket prices for lower-than-expected ticket sales. And perhaps most troubling, there seemed to be no mention of Vancouver or BC in the Indian media coverage of the awards show. 
 
Gentrification Can Be Funny. Well, at least when The Onion puts its spin on it. We thought with all the serious gentrification talk happening around town lately we'd sign off with this.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Norman Tait eagle helmet. Museum of Vancouver collection, AA 2571]

MOVments: Foreign Investor Spectres, Sign Language, and Ghetto Revolts

 
This week we explore recent debates around three points of contention in the city, namely, unoccupied condos, Chinese language signage in Richmond, and anti-gentrification activism. In all three cases, confusion and misunderstandings abound, making any single reading impossible and revealing just how complex the issues of affordable housing, intercultural communication, and shifting socio-economic demographics really are.
 
Vacancies for Sale. The murky count on apartments purchased and left vacant by overseas investors (as well as Canadian residents) may have just become a little clearer. A recent Globe and Mail piece reports the findings of adjunct UBC planning professor Andrew Yan which suggest that "nearly a quarter of condos in Vancouver are empty or occupied by non-residents in some dense areas of downtown." The argument goes that these vacant apartments drive up market prices and skew the perception of density in certain neighbourhoods. But the vaguely racist undertones of the discourse also mean that the issue is more complicated than simple numbers. (Although perhaps not according to Gary Mason. For an unequivocally pro-free-market perspective on the situation, see his response piece in the Globe and Mail).
 
Reading the Signs. A change to Richmond signage bylaw that would have seen English mandatory on all store signs was struck down by city council recently. The issue was brought forward by two women petitioning the Chinese-only signs they saw in the city. Kerry Starchuk told The Province: “This is not cultural harmony because I have no idea what these signs, advertising and the real estate papers are saying." On the other hand, members of city council felt that the city should not be responsible for controlling sign language and that owners should be free to market to the customers they are looking to attract.
 
Living, Working, and Protesting in the DTES. As most of you have probably heard by now, anarchist groups have been protesting gentrifying forces in the Downtown Eastside in what some have coined a "ghetto revolt." In the midst of the protests, some restaurants are engaging with local residents in a socially and financially supportive way. This fantastic piece from the The Thunderbird explores the complex relationship between business owners and DTES employees, as they each struggle "to succeed in their own way."
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Multi-lingual signage in Richmond. Photo courtesy of RickChung.com via Flickr]

MOVments: Telling Tales and Toying with the World of Vancouver Real Estate

This week in MOVments we explore some of the recent narratives, numbers, and neighborhood games top of mind in the ever-present world of Vancouver real estate. We have the on-going and multi-layered tale of gentrification in the DTES, some new research that tackles the oft-cited cause/effect relationship of of foreign-buyers driving up condo prices, a playful chronicle of one conceptual artist selling the smallest pieces of real estate in the history of Vancouver, and an online game that tests your knowledge of local city neighborhoods.

Pidgin Protesters. By now, you've probably heard about the protests happening outside of a newly opened restaurant called Pidgin in the Downtown Eastside. Anti-poverty activists are arguing that the intrusion of another high-end restaurant in the neighbourhood means that there is not only less space for low-income housing or organizations providing community services but that it is also disrespectful to the culture of the community. On the other side of the argument, people like city councillor Kerry Jang see the mixed nature of the area as a positive and restaurant co-owner Brandon Grossutti sees his efforts at hiring DTES residents as a path to a more integrated community. And while we're on the subject, check out a couple other perspectives that range from accusations of a kind of reverse NIMBYism to biased media coverage of protestors.

The Myth of the Foreign Buyer Boogeyman? Chances are that if you've lived in Vancouver for any length of time you've also heard about the people who come from overseas to buy up our real estate, drive up prices, and then leave the residences vacant. This Globe and Mail piece suggests that there may be less truth in the story than we previously believed. Although exact statistics are tricky to obtain the article states that "2012 figures from Landcor Data Corporation show that only 0.2 per cent of people who bought residential properties in Metro Vancouver last year are currently living outside of the country" In other words, hardly enough to drive the market. The article also says that many foreign investors are in fact also residing here, coming from China and other countries in order to support their children's educations.

Cube Living. Looking for some affordable real estate in the city? Then look no further than artist Alex Grunenfelder's Cube Living project at 221A Artist Run Centre. Last week, Grunenfelder was selling one cubic foot units of space to interested buyers for as little as one dollar. In this interview for The Tyee Grunenfelder explained the project: "I'm not necessarily advocating living in smaller spaces," he says of Cube Living. "It's about looking at the discussions that are happening around all of this, and maybe looking at things from a different point of view, and also trying to project, where is this going? Where is this process of urban densification going to end up?"

Know Your 'Hood. And finally, get to know your Vancouver neighbourhoods with this cute little app (helpful for the next time that you buy real estate?).

At the MOVeum:

March 3 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism                                             March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism 

[Image: Screenshot from Click That 'Hood game by Code for America]

MOVments: On Missed Opportunities (and Finding New Ones)

This week a shout out to a beloved, but long gone butcher shop on Granville got us thinking about instances where the city missed a chance to preserve its social institutions and foster its creative forces. From saying goodbye to a car-free block downtown to a long-awaited report on the Downtown Eastside missing women, there are certainly plenty of things to ponder on the current social and political horizon. However, these do not just represent some missed opportunities, they also offer chances to reflect, critically analyze, and move forward from where we are now.

Block 51. It looks like the pedestrian-only block adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street will revert back to its former incarnation as a transit and traffic artery in the city. As the Globe and Mail reports the public space provided by Block 51 has been very popular over the summer but as the winter has set in, it has become much less animated, leading to the decision to open it to traffic again. While this may be the end of a central gathering place in the vicinity for the time being, the city has recognized the vital importance of these kinds of spaces, identifying other areas on Robson, Granville, and Hamilton as potential permanent gathering places.

Missing Voices. Commissioner Wally Oppal has submitted his final report on the investigation of the missing women cases in the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002 and as the Georgia Straight reports, it will be made available to the public in mid-December. However, some have already pointed out some flaws. Kasari Govender of West Coast LEAF stated, “This inquiry was a missed opportunity to include the voices of marginalized women, of marginalized communities, and those who were directly impacted by the subject matter of the inquiry. It perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate,” But as the reaction to the report has already shown, many legal organizations, non-profits, and media outlets seem to be poised to continue the conversation, critically reflecting on the ongoing discrimination against women, Downtown Eastside residents, and sex-workers in the city and making their own recommendations.

Dude Chilling Park No Longer Quite So Chill. In case you missed it, Guelph Park in East Vancouver was briefly renamed Dude Chilling Park last Thursday. Artist Viktor Briestensky installed a sign with the new name after being inspired by a sculpture of a reclining man that inhabits the park. As the Province reports, Briestensky's goal was simply to promote intergenerational dialogue using humour. And although the sign was removed early Friday morning, it appears that Briestensky has partially succeeded; an online petition calling for the official renaming of the park is creating quite the buzz online, especially among Internet-savvy Vancouverites. Only time will tell if this ends up being a missed opportunity or an exciting example of art being used to reinvigorate an underused social space. You can check out the petition here

At the MOVeum:

November 28 - Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons
December 6 - Curator's Talk & Tour with Viviane Gosselin
December 8 - Love You Forever Tattoo Parlour

[Image: James Inglis Reid Ltd. business card for the Granville Street butcher shop. Museum of Vancouver collection, H2004.12.32]

MOVments: communities in action

Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.

OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.

Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.

Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.

Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.

Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.

Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.

Community stories. A creative writing workshop at Onsite enables people in the Downtown Eastside to tell their own stories, while Hope in Shadows aims to do the same thing with photography.

In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.

How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.

Image: Karen Kuo

MOVments: gathered for change

#occupyvancouver dominates the news this week. Thousands of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for Occupy Vancouver's first General Assembly on Saturday. Many people are prepared to camp out for some time, though the ban on staking tents to the ground and cooking with propane makes this more difficult.

The Tyee asks people why they have chosen to take to the streets.

We Day. Meanwhile, another gathering for change: as 18,000 youth participate in We Day, where Mikhail Gorbachev and other speakers presented on the value of community service and youth engagement.

The Missing Women Inquiry is off to a rocky start with protests as several groups have chosen to not participate. Many groups are concerned that the lack of funding provided to advocacy groups for legal assistance for is a serious impediment to having their voices heard, and without their support for the process, it is uncertain whether the Inquiry will acheive its purpose.

Powwow. A huge powwow took place in the Downtown Eastside to honour First Nations elders.

Evelyn Lau was named Vancouver's next poet laureate in advance of the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference later this week.

Re:CONNECT challenges Vancouverites to reinvision the city's eastern core and viaducts as a vibrant space.

No more pictures. Jeff Wall laments the loss of photogenic buildings in Vancouver.

Local food. A few months after being featured in MOV's Home Grown exhibit, the Home Grow-In Grocery closed suddenly, taking customers' deposits with it. Now the store has reopened with new owners, who are trying to regain the trust of their customers while building our local food infrastructure.

Ethnic enclaves. Is it time for Vancouver to have a Pinoytown?

Image: Ariane Colenbrander

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