scamcouver

fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Compare/Contrast

Net Loss City

by Zbigniew

As reported in the Vancouver Sun, census figures for 2016 show 25,502 unoccupied or empty housing units in the City of Vancouver -15 per cent higher than recorded in the previous census of 2011.

According to urban planner and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, the bulk of the empty units were concentrated in Coal Harbour, Marine Gateway and Joyce-Collingwood. Following Vancouver were Surrey (11,195 homes), Burnaby (5,829) and Richmond (4,021).

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From “Population Change 2011 – 2016” by CensusMapper (based on Canada Census 2016):

This map shows the relative population change between the 2011 and 2016 censuses in each area.

The population grew in all provinces except in New Brunswick, where population dropped by half a percent.

At the Census District level there is considerable variation, with strongest population gains in urban areas.

Even within Census Metropolitan areas there are parts with population decline, as can be seen well e.g. in Vancouver ….

canada-census-map-population-change-in-vancouver

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Every year U-Haul International, Inc. presents “migration trends” reports, based on data collected from more than 21,000 locations in all 50 states and 10 provinces.

City growth rankings are determined by the net of one-way U-Hauls arriving and departing in a calendar year.

According to this information, Kamloops leads the country in growth -that is, it leads in net arrivals. The top-ranking British Columbia cities are, Chilliwack (9th), Vernon (15th), Penticton (18th) and Merritt (24th).

As Gordon Clark underscores: 52.9 per cent of one-way U-Haul trucks leave Vancouver, compared to the 47.1 per cent that arrive.

In other words, we’re a “net loss city.”

Exposed

by Zbigniew

Bill & ErniePhotograph: Brian Kent/Vancouver Sun, PNG

My memories of the opaquely sanctioned dog & pony show -destined to remain dormant in some atrophied cluster of neurons but reanimated by the hullabaloo of the 30-year anniversary- are not very coherent:

  • a giant hockey stick
  • an undulating highway cum hazardous concrete playground for kids of all ages
  • being coerced by a monarchist into an up-close viewing of the Prince and Princess (Too much Prince, too little Princess, from my vantage)
  • a Psychedelic Furs concert
  • a CPR exhibit that employed a mime to enthusiastically illustrate the decline in passenger rail service
  • a presentation on British Columbia’s mining industry, complete with a chorus of singing puppet minerals -featuring Molybdenum as the basso profondo (sic)
  • the Power Plant studio, where we recorded a not-too-nuanced cover of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” after a piss-up at Club ’86
  • the Philippines Pavilion -essentially a front for the sale of imported rattan furniture
  • Canada Geese in high fidelity 3D
  • gondolas
  • monorail
  • McBarge

All in all, nothing, with nightly fireworks.

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“The urban recession of the 1980s was still closely linked to the slowdown in the lumber industry, even if its most obvious symptom was a rapid decline in real estate values. But since then, there have been clear signs that the Vancouver economy is both uncoupling from the rest of the province, and becoming more dynamic … it has uncoupled from its interior and become more of a Pacific Rim city, drawing nourishment from its direct links to such centres as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo.

“Looking at less tangible factors … we could argue that that Vancouver’s recent growth has come from a self-reflexive belief in itself; it succeeds, postmodern style, more because of its image as a place ‘where the action is’ than because of any evident material cause.”

Paul Delaney, “Vancouver as a Postmodern City,” Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City

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By 1986 the Lower Mainland was no stranger to foreign capital induced megaprojects –witness the Guinness Family development of the British Properties.

Expo brought this dynamic in from the sticks, to the city’s industrial heart, wiping the economic and historical slate clean -a six-month psychic bulldozing by circus. Beehive burners and Sweeney Cooperage were obliterated by a giant watch and a corkscrew rollercoaster. The world was in motion and the motion was up, an elevator to an eventual stop at a circa 40th floor luxury penthouse.

So cleansed, the site’s 83 hectares were sold in bulk to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing at the wholesale price of $320 million dollars. But wait! If you buy now, the Province will throw in soil remediation, netting the good citizens of BC a scandalous $145 million. And so: “Li Ka-ching!”

Grotesque spectacle as marketing strategy, bulk foreign capital dictating urban development and redevelopment: these are the obvious Expo legacies.

But other nasty seeds were planted in the lead-up to the World Exposition on Transportation and Communication (Class II). In the intervening 30 years these have yielded a bumper crop of bitter fruit.

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In May of 1986 I was halfway through my undergraduate degree.

I paid my own way, thanks to an affordable tuition -about $1,000 a year for a full coarse-load- and a union job. At Vancouver General Hospital I distributed meals, collected the remains, and operated an industrial washing machine, among other tasks. If there was any “fat” in the system, I didn’t see it. The work was sweaty, dirty, odorous and honest, with daily exposure to the worst a malfunctioning or injured human body can offer, but the best of grace and resilience.

I worked full-time in summer and on-call the rest of the year to focus on my studies. I didn’t exactly live high on the hog. I earned enough to keep my 1977 Volkswagen Sirocco –no functioning heat, radio, or sex appeal- on the road (for extended periods, anyways), graduate debt-free with the vague impression that I had possibly learned something, and scrimp together enough to backpack across Europe -on the cheap.

While the Reagan-Thatcherite dogma was only recently installed by the early 1980s, in BC the neo-liberal agenda was in full tilt under the Social Credit Party and Bennett fils. Having already beaten-up the working public with its proto-austerity “Restraint” regime, Expo opened up new opportunities for the Socreds to dismantle the social safety net and pave the way for dispassionate markets.

In the immediate lead-up to the exposition: six hundred people -mostly poor and elderly occupants of Downtown Eastside SROs- were displaced to make room for tourists, the provincial government having refused to outlaw evictions; university tuition climbed dramatically, as the circus’ deficit grew from $6 million to more than $300 million; and, both against a backdrop of an on-going cold war against organized labour.

These are the other legacies: widespread housing unaffordability and insecurity, massive and debilitating student debt loads, and low-wage employment.

My old union job? Outsourced to an international conglomerate that maximizes shareholder value by limiting wages and providing the worst of goods and services; food is now prepared in Calgary and trucked to Vancouver hospitals, while the poor schmuck that took my place makes less now in relative and absolute terms than I did 30 years ago.

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On a late summer night in 1986, I’m ‘where the action is,’ patiently enduring the overture that announces the imminent start of the nightly fireworks display.

I am obviously oblivious to the good fortune of having caught the tail end of a social economy that gives a working class kid some opportunities, but I am uneasy. My delicately balanced world of work, study, and rudimentary independence is starting to slip. I’m in the the hole for my suddenly expensive fall courses, and a pocketbook-destroying job action looms on the horizon.

The elaborate and forgettable configuration of ignited powders builds to a crescendo, accompanied by a hysterical chorus that demands, insists, “Something’s Happening … Something’s Happening … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING … SOMETHING’S HAPPENING HERE!” I look up at the tracers fading away, and as the echoes of explosions diminish and the crowd starts its cheering, I think, “There goes my tuition.”

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It is the 40th anniversary of Habitat Forum.

The Correct Emphasis

by Zbigniew

“The couple had been renting a condo in Mount Pleasant, but seven months ago – inspired in part by the growing community of Vancouver van-dwellers sharing their stories on YouTube – they decided to downsize.” (Emphasis added)

‘It’s comfortable’: Couple living in van has no interest in going back to condo,” CTV Vancouver, March 26, 2016

New Homeless

“A staff report to Delta council noted that ‘while conducting parking enforcement at night, bylaws staff encountered a number of homeless individuals sleeping in campers and vans at roadside.'” (Emphasis added)

Homeless in industrial parks,” Delta Optimist, May 4, 2016

Buddy’s Move

by Zbigniew

“It’s hard to imagine that a city now known for its bloated real estate, yuppie cokeheads and inability to buy a beer, gave birth to bands like D.O.A. and the Subhumans and made Dave ”Tiger” Williams a hockey star. If the Vancouver of 1980 met the Vancouver of 2008, it would give it a curbie.”

Sean Condon, “Time Travel: Vancouver 1980,” Only (April 15, 2008)

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Bowen Island is not exactly an exotic locale, lacking virtually all the usual aesthetic opportunities. However, it’s bucolic, quiet, and close: There’s exactly one other human being on the long hike up Mt. Gardiner, which yields spectacular views of the metropolis just a skip over the water.

The interregnum between sanctioned feasts completed, and the vehicle patiently waiting in the ferry line-up, I pass the time with a walk in the cold and sunshine.

In the confines of Snug Cove I cross paths with a certain new varietal of Lower Mainland colonist, one who enjoys his day-trips in very large and noisy groups. A member of this contingent walks toward me, a young fellow carrying a sports bag. A Louis Vuitton sports bag.

And without any further prompting, in the picture-postcard confines of sunny and dull exurbia, a long dormant and deep-seated body memory suddenly awakes.

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Alan was on the fringe of our little group of ethnically diverse miscreant explorers and minor league vandals -the token “Canadian.” The main thing I remember about him was the oft-repeated rumour that he suffered an undescended testicle.

His older brother, Buddy, left a much stronger impression. I recall a chiseled face a little like Matt Dillon’s in The Outsiders, but with a cheap haircut, a regularly shifting pattern of scrapes and bruises, and significantly less sentience about the eyes. Although I took great pains to avoid him, it proved challenging: Buddy was a journeyman criminal that worked our Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood like a sub rosa tax farmer, a private and unsanctioned agent of 1970s income redistribution.

Anonymous theft seemed to be his preferred MO. Items left unsecured out-of-doors had a way of quickly disappearing. I lost a beloved bicycle to him -a red three-speed, a generous gift from my parents following a prolonged recovery from pneumonia at St. Paul’s; it vanished after a half-dozen rides and a brief lapse in judgment regarding its security. I catch a last glimpse a couple of days later, as Buddy pushes it up Lillooet Street, its modest profile too low for him to ride to its new owner.

There was also a more personal approach: the shakedown.

Buddy -and his ilk, a loose and aspiring Anglo-Saxon mafia farm team- employed a particular maneuver. Walking down the street, en route to the comic book shop, and out of nowhere Buddy appears on my right and engages me in inane banter. Before I gather my wits, his left hand comes up and strikes me, flat palm down, against my upper chest –not too hard but quick, producing a disconcertingly loud smack! The palm turns into a tight grip on my down jacket and the conversation veers towards monetary matters, his right hand hanging loose and ready to join the discussion. I say “jacket” because I recall these shakedowns taking place against grey skies, on cold, damp and all-too-empty streets. I suppose warmer seasons were reserved for ripping-off bikes or that other East Vancouver piecemeal gig of the time, the B & E.

I never participated in the demand side of the this low-level income redistribution scheme. However, I became an adept of the left-handed palm-down-smack-and-grab, a regular feature of angry confrontations with friend and foe alike, roughly comparable to the settlement procedures popular on Hockey Night in Canada.

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As Louis Vuitton quickly comes abreast of me and passes, my muscles twitch and I’m readying to pivot 180˚, sidle up on his right, make an inane comment about the weather, and in the interval of confusion … smack! -let him know just how much I admire his choice of luggage.

Of course, the rational side of my consciousness quickly kicks in, like a circuit breaker. My emotional solidarity with Buddy is clearly misguided: I certainly don’t need a designer sports bag or its black market cash equivalent; Buddy’s moved on, to Matsqui, real estate, or whatever; our East Van is long gone, its rough and ready street rules and equalizations no longer apply, certainly not on the cusp of 2016 on Bowen Island, not even as an echo to spook some hapless schmuck.

Besides: too many witnesses.

Soul Crushing

by Zbigniew

“Each of those casements opened onto a room where how many comedies had transpired! And how many dramas, for that matter! Their shudders had been closed in times of mourning, they had been bedecked with bunting and hung with fairy lights on occasions of victory. For the first time there came to me the vague thought that houses have a soul, composed of the joys and sorrows and labors of those they have sheltered, and that all have their history: secret, romantic, or joyful.”

G. Lenotre, in Luc Sante’s The Other Paris

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9781772140347

“When these old homes come down, a whole history goes with them—the materials that were used to build them, the gardens, the successive owners and their secrets. These old houses and apartments are repositories of narrative. The story of our city is diminished every time one disappears.”

Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition & Revival, Anvil Press

 

Unbalanced

by Zbigniew

SND73-2

“The World Soundscape Project (WSP) was established as an educational and research group by R. Murray Schafer at Simon Fraser University during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It grew out of Schafer’s initial attempt to draw attention to the sonic environment through a course in noise pollution, as well as from his personal distaste for the more raucous aspects of Vancouver’s rapidly changing soundscape.

“The project initiated the modern study of Acoustic Ecology. Its ultimate goal is ‘to find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape where the relationship between the human community and its sonic environment is in harmony.'”

The World Soundscape Project

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Excerpt from “harsh noise” performer The Rita’s response to Pietro Sammarco’s Vancouver Noise & the Harmoniously Productive City, December 9th, 2015:

What Happened?

by Zbigniew

vintage-orange-crate-label3

“Millions of newcomers were once drawn to the Los Angeles area by the promise of homes and orchards soaking in sunshine at the foot of snow-peaked mountains. Postcards and orange crate labels advertised this idyllic image to the world for decades, and unlike so much else of about the region, it was not entirely fake. Even at the end of the Second World War, metropolitan Los Angeles still possessed inestimable scenic capital as well as compelling if utopian vision of how the city might yet use its open spaces to make itself more beautiful and more egalitarian. What happened?”

Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster

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Lions Gate Bridge

Imminent Displacement

by Zbigniew

circa-1948

“Then as now, there was a recession, a global banking system in shambles, a housing crisis and a shadowy external threat (the Cold War then, terrorism now), all of which are formally similar even if they have very different causes and our governments propose very different solutions. One thing peculiar to the postwar period was the reorganization of urban life in virtually every city in North America. The case of Vancouver, BC, is a local example of a continental condition: the suburbanization of the middle class and the razing of ethnic inner-city slums so that the poor could be warehoused in modernist towers. The 1,200 or so homeless veterans who initially squatted the old Hotel Vancouver are emblematic of the former, and the multi-ethnic residents of Hogan’s Alley whose homes were earmarked for demolition as early as 1947 represent the latter. In the end, the hotel was torn down before the alley, but the fear of imminent displacement is a source of anxiety for all of our characters.”

From Circa 1948, Artist Statement by Stan Douglas

Timber!

by Zbigniew

“In Toronto, researchers recently found that people living on tree-lined streets reported health benefits equivalent to being seven years younger or receiving a $10,000 salary rise. As well as studies revealing benefits from everything from improved mental health to reduced asthma, US scientists have even identified a correlation between an increase in tree-canopy cover and fewer low-weight births.”

Introducing ‘Treeconomics’: how street trees can save our lives,” Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, August 15, 2015

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“Trees grow, die, are topped, pruned, clipped, limbed-up, moved, run into and over, and are replaced with other trees, or too often, with buildings or parking lots. Do not be surprised if certain ones referred to specifically in this book are no longer there when you look for them.”

Gerald B. Straley, Trees of Vancouver

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Barbara Yaffe: Depletion of Vancouver’s tree-cover a ‘nightmare’ – In an ‘arboristic homicide,’ we have lost 50,000 trees since 1996 — with 96 per cent of the loss being trees on private property

 

A Sewer

by Zbigniew

The liner notes from The Doors: Live in Vancouver, 1970 quote Ray Manzarek: “Such a cool seaboard town. Smell of smoking salmon in the air. First Nations people’s vibe in the air. Clean air in the air.”

Jim Morrison’s views on Vancouver’s air quality, caught between tracks, are somewhat less florid and fancy: “You guys sure have a beautiful city here, you know that? You really do. You can’t imagine how refreshing it is to come out of a sewer like Los Angeles and breathe some fresh air for a change.”

 

Forty-five years on and Vancouver -always a sort of far-flung suburb of the City of Angels, a Bedroom Dreamland- has finally caught the big city mojo.

We’re warned to stay indoors to avoid the particulate matter of forest and dockland fires. A short stroll risks exposure to rancid humours rising from the city’s bowels and the high-pitched reek of apparently cooking garbage. Meanwhile, the stink that wafts off False Creek is enough to warrant a rechristening -Shit Creek.

The sewer is in full flow.

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By the by, The Doors concluded their Pacific Coliseum performance with, naturally, “The End.”

“Waiting for the summer rain ….”