fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Property Wrongs

Sheer Beauty & Loveliness

by Zbigniew

“It is not enough merely to build a clean, healthful, orderly, smooth-functioning urban organism, although every agency of government should strive toward this end. In every possible way it must erase from the mind of the city dweller the monotony of daily tasks, the ugliness of factories, shops and tenements and the fatigue of urban noises. It can do this by showing a decent regard for its appearance, and by various devices it must occasionally touch the emotions. The city becomes a remembered city, a beloved city, not by its ability to manufacture or sell, but by its ability to create and hold bits of sheer beauty and loveliness.”

Harland Bartholomew, “A Plan for the City of Vancouver, 1929”


Excerpts from “Developer producing instant luxury condos in six weeks for resource towns,” Business in Vancouver, June 10, 2015

An Alberta developer with his own Chinese factory claims he can build a 48-unit luxury condominium in Vancouver in six weeks at half the price of conventional concrete construction.

“We can offer luxury urban-style living in even the most remote areas,” said David Weiss, project director for New York City-based Primco Holdings LLC, which has partnered with Stack Modular. “That’s what every small community is looking for, whether it’s an LNG [liquefied natural gas] project in British Columbia or a mining town in northern Ontario.”

Weiss said he has been in talks with a Vancouver developer, who he would not identify, in delivering a similar project into the city’s white-hot condominium market.

Instant CondosImage: Aerial view, Stack Modular apartment buildings | Stack Modular


Mind Numbing

by Zbigniew

Mrs. Cylbulski notes some acquisitions from one of the surfeit of garage sales in our neighbourhood. She picked up some LPs for me, but on the walk home abandons them in an alley, thinking I wouldn’t be interested.

“Oh? What albums?” I ask

“Strange Advance and …. What’s the matter?”

We spend the wee hours of Saturday morning driving around quiet alleys in search of martial harmony and a memory in an analog medium.


A sunny weekday morning in early June 1983, the loose end game of a high school schedule, and we ply into an early ‘70s Plymouth Fury, a goodly-sized apartment posing as an automobile, to drive up Mt. Seymour. But for the two chair lift operators, we appear to have the hill all to ourselves. Splitting into pairs for the last leg -me with Jim and his recent acquisition: a boom box of impressive size and specifications. Against a clean blue sky we float above the treetops, riding a slow moving wave of warm sunshine, crisp air, and a haunting tune carrying along the hillside. A carefree afternoon in the sun; a world away, punctuated only by occasional yelp induced by the sobering impact of well-hurled ball of loosely compacted slush.

Worlds collide, with all the attendant friction, disruption, and destruction.

The agglomeration of ugly clustered northwest of main and 2nd (the “Greater Village”?) is entering its 3rd stage -“The Creek” etc etc etc- and it’s metastasizing south, with development proposals in for the 1800 and 1900 blocks, an excavated pit on Sophia bordered by a now-evicted tenant’s flowers, the active destruction of the old Jantzen swimsuit factory to make room for the tower, the maker of shadows. There’ll be more: Aquilini owns most of the parcels in between. Disappearing Main Street gets more relevant by the week.

1965-1981 Main Street 1

1965-1981 Main Street 2

Downtown and the Post Office is on the chopping block, the province is ready to deprive all those new condominium inhabitants of a hospital, and even the CBC wants to join the seller’s market.

UBC proposes 145 square foot units –less spacious than the interior of 1970 Plymouth Fury- Surrey is “go” on a 50 story tower on its “civic plaza,” Brentwood is a massive construction site preparing for 10 new buildings, including a 53 story monster, and even White Rock –of all goddamn places- is “reviewing its official community plan.”

1837-1847 Main StreetThe political leadership is busy. Counting the proceeds of the sale of his home, he who occupies the mayor’s chair suggests “ a collaborative” solution, and takes policy cues from the likes of self-proclaimed “thought leader” Bob Rennie -a glorified car salesman legitimized by an investment portfolio comprised of expensive art and even more expensive influence.*


Bob says complaining about foreign investment is racist. Tell that to the Chinese officials running Operation Fox Hunt to repatriate fraudulently acquired funds laundered in Vancouver real estate.

Or the apparatchiks that freely acknowledge the presence and influence of Chinese money and that “[t]here is a huge stake for a lot of local people in keeping this thing going.”

3 Civic Plaza Surrey

And so a blogger at The Economist says were “mind numbingly boring.”

Day in, day out: it’s in my face or I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye or I walk through a shadow that had never been. The corrosive capital hard at work, the corruption at play, the worn and tattered façade masking a profound political failure, and the social and economic catastrophe that’s in the works. Mind numbing, sure, but boring it isn’t.

Not yet, anyway.

*Rennie’s capacity for self-aggrandizement is really pretty impressive. At the Jim Green memorial held at the Orpheum on April 15th, 2012, many a speaker waxed eloquently about Jim and the impact he had on their lives; Bob Rennie presented a slide show that prominently featured -who else?- Bob Rennie.

Clean White Shrines

by Zbigniew

“… I realized that the hamlet was really two hamlets, that it was divided almost precisely into houses with names, and the houses without names, though these two hamlets, like interpenetrating dimensions, were in the same place ….”

Malcolm Lowry, “The Forest Path to the Spring”


A Sunday afternoon drive was an opportunity for my brother and I to shift our on-going wrassingly match to the couch-sized back seat of my father’s ’67 Chevrolet Biscayne.

Half Nelsons and headlocks were applied, slipped, and reapplied against a flowing backdrop of freshly stuccoed Specials, but we called a truce for the panorama of the bridge crossing and the clouds catching on treetops. We forgot the struggle altogether when the highway turned into a narrow strip of road, winding through a forest.

My father called out the points of interest that lay hidden behind the curtain of trees: the squatters -“heepees” in his vernacular- at Maplewood Flats, and the “Burrard Band” reservation, home to the quasi-mythical Chief Dan George. A few minutes from home, and we were someplace far, far away.


The Tsleil-Waututh occupied Whey-ah-Wichen -“Facing the Wind”- for “time out of mind.” European colonization, taking the form of a wood mill, led to their forced removal to a reservation a few hundred metres west and off the water.

Squatters appeared, constructing shacks on the foreshore. Summer cabins for some, housing for most, made affordable by the uncertainty of jurisdictional authority.

Malcolm Lowry took up residence, naming it Eridanus, for the river that waters the Elysian Fields of Earthly Paradise in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Working the final drafts of Under the Volcano, Lowry and wife Margerie Bonner, swam, hiked, bird watched, and picnicked, sometimes at the end of a row running the length of Indian Arm.

“Often all you could see in the whole world of the dawn was a huge sun with two pines silhouetted in it, like a great blaze behind a Gothic cathedral. And at night the same pines would write a Chinese poem on the moon. Wolves howled from the mountains. On the path to the spring the mountains appeared and disappeared through the trees.“

Richard Walton recounts Al Birney’s arrival at the bulldozed remains of the Lowrys’ home, and standing in the mud and the rain, surrounded by Malcolm’s unpublished and soaked work:

“The bright crazy little shack is gone; all the sloppy ramshackle honest pile houses where fishermen lived and kingfishers visited are bulldozed into limbo, along with the wild cherries and ‘the forest path to the spring’. Now there is an empty beach and beside it a park with picnic tables and tarmac access; the sea air stinks with car exhaust. And the city that ignored him plans to cement a bronze plaque in his memory to the brick wall of the new civic craphouse.”

The park was named for a family of tugboat operators.

Lowry Plaque

By the late 1960s a community of hippies, artists and other free spirits arose just west of Cates Park at Maplewood Flats.

“This was authentic uncommodifiable human habitation, the polar opposite of the condo …. Squatting became a utopian model for the self-determined ‘village,’ self-sustaining communities in a city whose neighbourhoods were being razed for condo high-rises. The intertidal location was ruled by diurnal rhythms and lunar cycles, so available for parables of the rightness of living in harmony with nature.”*

A little strip of mud and grasses between the water and mountains, road and oil refinery, and a setting for the exploits of the “transdimensional” visitor in Byron Black’s all-but-unknown celluloid mind fuck The Holy Assassin, the mudflats were popularly known as Shangri-la.

Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972

Bruce Stewart: Dollarton Pleasure Faire, 1972

Among the resident artists were Tom Burrows, Al Neil and Neil’s partner Carol Itter, all of whom practiced assemblage, abstract sculptures of organic and inorganic objects found in the intertidal zone -unfixed, ever changing and evolving. “[Their] assemblages on the mudflats at Dollarton were evidence of a concern to get art out of a gallery setting that had become a clean white shrine to modernism, and into the real environment.”**

In December 1971 state-sanctioned arson was employed by the District of North Vancouver to address an apparent challenge to “public health standards” (read: private development). The squats, including Tom Burrows’ home, were torched. Shangri-la was razed and Eridanus was destroyed -again.


Gone, except for Al Neil’ and Carol Itter’s cabin. Inexplicably the little blue wood-stove heated shack has survived the intervening 40 odd years in a quiet corner nestled between the eastern edge of Cates Park and a site previously occupied by Noble Towing (Dollarton Shipyard) and McKenzie Barge & Marineways.

Their assemblages have also continued unabated, with one estimated at 45 feet wide, suspended amongst the cedars.

Pianist, composer, visual artist, and author Neil is 90. In 2014 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award.

However, this aesthetic-psychic-interdimensional loophole is about to be closed.

Neil and Itter were issued an eviction notice by Port Metro Vancouver, effective January 31, 2015: that’s today. The shack is scheduled for demolition tomorrow, February 1st. They are to make way for townhouses, condos and apartments at the former shipyard site.


An exhibit of Tom Burrows’ work is currently on display at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, while Al Neil and Carol Itter’s work is currently on view at the SFU Gallery on Burnaby Mountain and the Audain Gallery at SFU Woodwards.

The Audain Gallery is named for art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain. Mr. Audain is also President and CEO of Polygon Homes, the developer behind the project prompting the eviction notice.

Mr. Audain has expressed his willingness to support the relocation of the cabin. Perhaps it could be put on display in a clean white shrine to modernism.


The Shack


Dollarton_Polygon-3* Scott Watson, “Urban Renewal: Ghost Traps, Collage, Condos, and Squats.” Ruins in Progress: Vancouver Art in the Sixties

** Scott Watson, “Terminal City: Place, Culture, and the Regional Inflection” in Vancouver: Art & Artists 1931-1983

Private Geography

by Zbigniew

“Walking eastward through the great hall of the CPR station, you approach a putative public platform that might optimistically be called Station Square ….

“It is a true square in the sense of being a space carved out of the fabric of the city, as opposed to an open block surrounded by streets. And what a public space this could be, with a little imagination and some capital …. It would not take much. The space has well defined edges to the west and east, with older buildings (including the CPR station) fronting right onto it, providing the possibility of active uses such as cafes and restaurants. With the parked cars removed and the handsome heritage buildings flanking it opened up to the square, it could become the most cogent and dynamic public platform in the city. A low wall with lookout points along the edge, a unified design for the space that combines access, surface treatment, street furniture and pedestrian lighting, and perhaps the relocation of the adjacent war memorial statue to provide a focal point, would result in a rich public domain animated by people, traffic and trains. Without aping the contrived historicism of the adjacent Gastown’s so-called beautification, the task here is simply to complete the square. Perhaps here, finally, you could imagine a true Public Geography.”

Lance Berelowitz, Dream City


Office tower proposed between Gastown heritage buildings, Metro, January 11, 2015

“The land is already zoned for an office building so the proposal won’t have to go through a public hearing.”

waterfront-tower-555-west-cordova-22Image: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill

waterfront-tower-555-west-cordova-26Image: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill

Waterfront-Tower-555-West-Cordova-16Image: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill / Piranha NYC

The public has until January 22, 2015, to express their comments to the city.


by Zbigniew

I had planned on filing it under “The Cringe,” as yet another example of nausea-inducing shuffle-edited “crafted living” bullshit consumer condo-lifestyle tropes of sun, parks, beer, jogging, coffee, bicycles, boutiques etc etc etc.

At the closing credits, the logos representing the usual suspects- Rize, Rennie Marketing- and -hello!- something new: “Ayalaland.”

Ayala Land, Inc. is the largest property developer in the Philippines. It has offices in Milan, Rome, London, San Francisco, Dubai, and Singapore. Its portfolio includes retail, office, hotel, leisure, and residential.

Curiously, there’s precious little information readily available on Ayala Land’s role in the Rize development; there’s nothing at all on its website promoting its Vancouver project.

However, buried in industry online trade journal (Jones Lang LaSalle, IP, Inc – “We provide commercial real estate strategy, services and support to organizations around the globe”) the link –in all of its delocalized, dreary, bean counting inevitability- is highlighted:

“Investors are taking notice of the broad appeal, and the safe haven Canada could be to place capital. No longer ‘America’s attic,’ the Canadian real estate market yields one of the world’s highest rates of return, ranking second to only Saudi Arabia last year.”

Regarding Vancouver in particular, the article quotes Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission:

“There are so many business advantages on a tax perspective to invest (in Vancouver). We have the lowest corporate tax rates in North America, which is a huge advantage, not known to a lot of people. There is also enormous diversity, every language is spoken here. People come here because they want to live here, and then they find a place to work.”

In order for Vancouver to “keep its momentum as a gateway city to Asian capital, Canada will need to match foreign investors to opportunities on their home turf through equity partnerships and new development ventures keep foreign interest alive …. the tide may be shifting as domestic owners are becoming more open to cross-border partnerships.”

Quick & Nasty

by Zbigniew


Four-story condominium blocks are popping-up like mushrooms on East Hastings, from Clarke though Sunrise and along to Capital Hill.

The quality of these developments vary dramatically.

At the top end are the all-concrete structures.

The bulk are concrete ground floors topped by three levels of wood frame and plywood.

At the discount end of the spectrum are the concrete base topped by three floors of wood and oriented strand board, or OSB – an engineered wood product made by compressing layers of wood chips with adhesives. OSB has a variety of features that make it attractive over plywood, including larger sizing, uniformity blah blah. And cheaper: a sheet of OSB sells for half of an equivalent sheet of plywood.

Unfortunately, it can also act as a sponge. The National Association of Home Inspectors: “Compared to plywood, OSB swells more when it comes into contact with water, especially at panel edges. Swell is generally greater in OSB than in plywood due to the release of compaction stress in OSB created during the pressing of wood chips into panels. Swollen plywood will return to its nominal thickness as the wood dries, while OSB will remain permanently swollen, to some degree.” (Emphasis added.)

The marketing bumf for Bohème, at Hastings and Clark, claims it’s “a sophisticated new neighourhood of white brick residences, shops and restaurants in the heart of authentic Vancouver … a truly unique lifestyle brought to you by the Millennium Group ….” (Millennium, you will recall, were the developers behind the Olympic Village fiasco.)

Grandiose claims and prices aside -some of the available units are retailing in excess of $446,900- Bohème is a discount OSB special. The shredded wood and glue amalgam sheathing sat unprotected for weeks through several waves of the fall sub-monsoon rainstorms before anyone thought to purchase a tarp, and then only enough to cover half the thing.

But as the sheen on the Blomberg refrigerator fades, and the “Carrara marble inspired porcelain tiles” crack and chip, and rot pushes its way through living room walls, the punters will have their bohème.


Cage Match

by Zbigniew

Game of Homes

The concept –if we can call it that- pits four couples against each other to complete a full home renovation of four aging abodes. Cue the de rigueur stage-managed “reality” tropes: a loud, in-your-face host, tight, stress-inducing timelines, a steady stream of fist-pumping, frenetic editing, etc etc etc. The winner gets to keep the house.

Welcome to Vancouver and Game of Homes. (Get it? Game of HOMES!)

Way back (in late June) the idea was to renovate four Vancouver knockdowns on their lots. Inspired (sic) by the PNE Prize Home (sic), Great Pacific Television producer Blair Reekie billed it as a “new twist on preservation” in Vancouver’s out of control real estate market.

That was yesterday, but the market is all right-fucking-now. So, four houses have instead been liberated of the much more valuable dirt they sit on and moved to a fenced enclosure on Concorde Pacific’s property False Creek. Oh, it’s a mystical place that Northeast corner, where sign and permit by-laws don’t seem to apply, assessed property values shrink even as court actions lengthen, and the demands of local citizen’s for their promised park disappear into a vacuum.

It’s the perfect location for a catered and green tarpaulin-wrapped cage match, where couples gouge, claw and scrape over each other, like crabs in a barrel, for the Terminal sublime, a rare chance to touch the Holy of Holies: a home.

Well, a house, anyways.

Love Those Kerrisdale Buildings

by Zbigniew

According to a recent article from “” (with thanks to Inge Finge, who has to endure this bumf), Kerrisdale represents the next frontier in the brave new world of ceaseless speculation and development, thanks to C2 zoning. Read on, if you dare:


HQ Real Estate Services principal Mark Goodman tells us the recent sale of two elderly apartment buildings in Vancouver’s affluent Kerrisdale neighborhood has set the stage for redevelopment opportunities in an area with no demolition restrictions. Bel Aire Apartments (pictured below), a three-storey building with 11 suites located at 6356 East Blvd, sold for $5M. Mark, who brokered the deal, says the building, built in 1955, is a “strategic holding property” for an undisclosed buyer who’s “looking to the future.” The allure for investors of properties in this part of Kerrisdale: their C2 zoning doesn’t prohibit demolition, opening the door to larger-site assemblies and redevelopment.


It’s the same situation with Maple Grove Apartments, just down the road at 6344 East Blvd. The three-storey, 10-unit co-op building (built in 1951) last week sold for $5.2M. It also sits on a C2-zoned site, clearing the way for a future redevelopment of the site. Mark says the value per door of buildings like these is “far above and beyond” what typical apartments are selling for in the city—$125k more per unit in some cases—an indication of the latent value in the land. “And that value can be realized without restriction.”


by Zbigniew

From CP Rail’s Community webpage:

“At CP we know that a railroad may serve as the arteries of a nation, but at its heart is community. That’s why through CP Has Heart, we’re committed to improving the heart health of men, women and children across North America. And along the way, we’re showing heart whenever we can.”


Finding Purchase

by Zbigniew

Vivo 1a

VIVO: Media Arts Centre

Excerpts from: MOVE UPDATE (March 28, 2014)

Last May, VIVO was given notice that 1965 Main Street had been sold and was slated for demolition in 2014. We were given one year’s notice to vacate. Given the high rate of dislocation faced by arts centres in Vancouver due to ongoing redevelopment, VIVO is committed to purchasing its own property.

What are your plans or the new VIVO?

VIVO envisions a dynamic, organic and creative hub for interdisciplinary practice … some of our ideas:

  • A New Model of Creative Space for Contemporary Media Art Production
  • A collaborative Community Model for the Preservation, Dissemination and Promotion of Media Art
  • A Showcase for Media Arts

Is there a chance that VIVO will close for good?


Vivo 2