fear & loathing in Lotusland

Category: Sunrise

Landscaped, with Buildings

by Zbigniew

Everywhere I go, it’s the same sentiment: “You live in such a beautiful city.”

What to say? How to respond?


Knocked back and forth across time zones like a human ping-pong ball to a final final approach on YVR. The flight path takes me right over the new outlet mall, an aggregation so vile it resonates simultaneously in aesthetic, social and economic dimensions -an inauspicious return.

Stumbling into the streets, a mildly dissociative state induced by overlapping jet lags is suddenly intensified. I’ve been absent a matter of a few weeks, but the ground has shifted, buckled under a flood of capital. Disoriented, I stumble home.

The cranes are there, of course, but I perceive a shift in their distribution.

The area around the stadium is being “landscaped with buildings,” including the casino and three new residential/commercial towers, with another eight on the books. There are calls to remove the viaducts to “let in a little light,” while new shadows for Broadway & Main are imminent.

In Sunrise I find adjacent storefronts gone dark, multiple houses selling and sold, and orange mesh wrapping the trees of modest bungalows. After 50 years, a neighbour and family friend puts her unassuming home on the market. The new owners re-list two weeks after possession, the price tag augmented by $100,000.

I finally make it home. OPPOSE THE TOWER material awaits me: Keep the Drive Under Five!


At the 2011 PuSh Festival London-based Peter Reder presented City of Dreams, “a poetic map of the City of Vancouver made from hundreds of found objects that are assembled during the performance … a city recreated from shards of memory and myth, hopes and sufferings.”

As part of the festival, Reder also participated in a symposium, Cartographic Exploits: Marking Territory in the Contemporary City.

When asked whether Vancouver deserved its reputation for being one of the “most beautiful cities in the world,” Reder politely disagreed and offered instead that “Vancouver is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world.”


“You live in such a beautiful city.”

Well, it’s an evolving situation.

Que the Lights

by Zbigniew

2015-06-06 11.47.25

It squats on the corner, an over-sized, out-of-scale brute, of the “heavily discounted modern” variety.

It comes with a coach house offspring. (While there’s a resemblance in terms of materials, not so the style; Dad was apparently of the generic “peaked roof” persuasion.)

Nearing completion, construction stopped abruptly five or six months ago.

The front door is wrapped in plastic, windows frames are incomplete, a decorative column stands half-cladded. The already rusting gas meter suggests premature decay. (Or, just shite materials.) The whole scheme sits tired and heavy among heaping piles of compacted dirt.

Curiously, its many exterior lights are in good working order. These have been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing the now-fashionable-for-residential dramatic ambiance once reserved exclusively for landmarks and penitentiaries.

But what’s being highlighted here? Insufficient funds? A contractual dispute?

Perhaps its an elaborate public art piece, gifted to the good citizens of Hastings Sunrise for our edification. A running commentary on capital’s eternal vigilance and dim wit.

Vancouver Monster House Mood Lighting


Exhibit ‘B’

by Zbigniew

Scat Jagermeister

Sunrise Gentrification Check

by Zbigniew

Curbed LA offers a helpful quiz to assess the relative gentrification of one’s neighbourhood. With a few additions and modifications, a checklist reflect local characteristics of The Boom.

The maximum score is 150, broken down thusly:

0 to 30: “Functionally dull”

31 to 60: “On the map”

61 to 90: “Tilt”

91 to 120: “Condos marketed in Guangzhou”

121 to 150: “No one actually lives there”

Now, to apply the list to Hastings-Sunrise -officially demarcated by Nanaimo to Boundary and Burrard Inlet to Broadway. The resulting score will serve as baseline for future progress (sic?) reports.



Brunch spot acclaimed for its toast



Ballet-barre-focused workout place



Proliferation of backyard chicken coops



Highly specific record store with weird hours



Flipped houses with twin-peaked roof & external mood lighting



Inexplicable “general store”



Hipster “scat” (eg. discarded receptacles of PBR, Jagermeister etc)



Children’s clothing or toy store featuring hypoallergenic bamboo products



All-natural pet supply shop



Church converted to club/bar/hotel



Bar that takes 15 minutes to make a drink



Lost cat flyers clearly made by art students



Whole Foods, Urban Fare or Nesters



Specialty grocery store



Craft beer bar (3); if it has its own brewery inside, add 5



Coffee shop selling 12 oz of beans for $16 (8); if it roasts its own beans, add 4



Fancy developing world cuisine restaurant



Plans for a “high line style park”



Café with no-laptop/WiFi times



Store that sells olde-timey products for men



Neighbourhood re-branding



Think piece in a national print magazine






Let the record show that on Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2105, Hastings-Sunrise is officially, if unscientifically “on the map.”

Sub-Area Monopoly

by Zbigniew

InfillThe “Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, Nanaimo Sub-Area Workshop.” How it rolls off the tongue and seizes the imagination.

There’s a sizeable crowd at the WISE Hall; to my eye, a good 70 civilians. The Planning Department is in force, too. Estimating a conservative two per table, nine tables, plus graphic interpreters (two), floaters (several), the lieutenant, including volunteer wannabes … circa 25. A platoon!

Name tag affixed (“Concerned Citizen”) I see Matthew waving me over to a seat he’s saved.

“Did you get the email?”

I did. A 30-page backgrounder that arrived in my inbox just the evening before, for those wanting to “get a head start on things.” Oh, and by the by, “we’ll be looking at the specific policies that were proposed for the sub-area.” In other words, back to the soundly rejected 2013 community plan. Just thought you should know.

Sure enough, the hall is surrounded by the very same “emerging directions” propaganda prescribed 14 months earlier, although a few placards now sport an “I Heart GW” sticker. Emerging, like a flower, or a turd.



The 11th hour plan is for Matthew and I to do the initial session together –to get the lay of the land and compare notes- before splitting forces.

It’s a tight agenda.

And we’re off, and there’s no room to consider the destructive forces that hover just beyond the walls or even discuss the problematic math of population projections. “What do you like about the neighbourhood?” “What do you dislike?” We spend a lot of time on built form, and very little on social form, on the possibilities of tenancy -except ownership, of course.


I feel herded directed lured towards more and higher. Wait! There are discrepancies between maps: does the plan stop at the alley behind Nanaimo or go on to Kamloops? I’m thankful for the vocal people at my table, asking pointed questions, repeating apparently misunderstood statements, and expressing frustration with staff’s tone deafness. At his table Matt is calling for votes and, more often than not, finds unanimity.

Over the course of the afternoon I hear a majority opinion calling for a modest approach: two-lot aggregation limits, the amputation of “the fingers,” and height restrictions to respect the current scale of the neighbourhood -to preserve the Grand View.




The bureaucratic forces are diligent. Dissenting opinions –from the invested and/or deluded favouring more and higher- are meticulously reported. It’s just the cover the development troops need for flexibility and interpretational wiggle room. At the development sign up ahead … a Policy Twilight Zone.

And then, out of the blue, a foray: the closure of Templeton Pool because Britannia. So: more density, with fewer amenities? Less for more -is that what you’re saying? The speed of the retreat would impress the Italian Army.


For the last table exercise a set of colour-coded cards are distributed, indicating the planning/development-friendly generic components of a neighbourhood. They evoke the cards signifying ownership in that real estate board game. We’re asked to place these on a map.

StoreThe Monday evening following I’m standing near the corner of Main & Hastings, being passed over by the not full Sorry Bus Full 135.

I opt for the next local heading east. It’s an old school diesel, from the ‘90s, from the era when our transit system won international awards. It’s a rarity, a functional piece of history.

It looks at capacity. But the driver gets on the blower and encourages everyone to move back and remove backpacks, to make room for those still on the street, and we do.

Maybe it’s the mild winter evening, or a collective relief at the conclusion of a Monday, for the crowd is buoyant. I’m surrounded by conversations, some between apparent strangers and others from the chance encounter of friends. I take note of the little kindnesses, the youth giving up seats for the elderly and people gently squeezing by others.

With every stop -starting already at Gore- there’s a steady exchange of fresh passengers for those alighting. I picture a motorized needle making a detailed stitch along East Hastings.

From his seat a pensioner, a little guy, uses his cane to ring the stop. Only when the bus comes to a standstill does he get to his feet. More or less steadily he works his way through the crowd to the exit, deploying a Buddy Hackett/Jerry Lewis shtick to keep the doors open: “Thank you Mrs. Driver! Good Job! Watch out for me! Sometimes I fart and stink! Watch out!” I admire the laughter-inducing effectiveness of his routine. One day, it might come in handy.

By the time things settled down, I’m already at Renfrew and aware that I could’ve missed all this theatre for the dull, if speedy, SFU Express.

I think back to a card dealt out at the workshop, a blank “Wildcard” we were asked to fill in. I had left it unmarked.

What I want -for Nanaimo Street, Grandview-Woodlands, and Hastings Sunrise, for myself, my family and my neighbours- is far too fine, ephemeral, and grand for the confines of a Monopoly title deed.



Scat, Exhibit ‘A’

by Zbigniew


From Tips to Help You Identify Scat:

Droppings, feces, and scat, found in isolation of other sign, can be extremely difficult to identify. Simple changes in an animal’s diet can dramatically change the color, shape and contents of feces making it difficult to determine the source of the droppings without scientific equipment. However, by asking the right questions you can go a long way to reduce the number of available suspects.

  • Determine its size both in length and width.
  • Identify its form: Is it round like a pellet? Is it tubular? Are the ends flat or pointed ….
  • Is there one dropping or multiple?
  • Can you identify any hair or food particles in the droppings? Sometimes corn, berries, seeds, and insect wings aren’t completely digested.
  • What time of day do you find the droppings? Would they have been left at night or during the day?
  • Is it a one-time event or does it occur in the same general spot for several days?
  • What type of habitat is present where you reside? (ie. woods, urban, suburban, agricultural etc.

STOP! Be safe. Avoid handling droppings without proper protection, which includes avoiding inhaling around it. Some diseases may contracted through dust borne particles. Look, more than touch!! If you have to touch, use a tool and/or properly gloved hands!! STAY UP WIND!!


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.



by Zbigniew

There’s dread, and then there’s a very particular type of dread associated with a lifestyle magazine featuring a cover story of your neighbourhood.

Gail Johnson, the designated fluff-hack for the condo-ad dependent Georgia Straight, gives East Hastings the promotional copy once over in her “Hastings-Sunrise basks in the area’s rebirth” (February 20-27, 2014).

She opens with some tired quotes (“The city can’t grow any more to the south because there’s a border. It can’t go anymore to the ….” blah blah etc), pays lip service to history, and references new eateries, “districts”, and proximities as breezily as possible to get to the prolonged climax: a comprehensive inventory of the local condo developments coming on line. The whole tired, saggy mess is sandwiched amongst and between ads for even more condos and laneway house constructors.

Dave and Candy lived across the alley for years: avid gardeners and professional musicians, great neighbours and lovely people. The house sold and they moved out to deep Burnaby.

The first order of business for the new owners was to cut down the fig and persimmon trees to make way for their camper van -which I’ve never seen moved.

Yes, it’s their property. Of course, they can do as they please. I said hello.

She talked of how conveniently located the neighbourhood was to downtown and the north shore, and they  sure are doing a lot of renovations, and how often do you see persimmon trees. And I miss Dave and Candy.

The Science of Getting Rich

by Zbigniew

Of a warm, summer evening, I opt for a post-prandial perambulation. Through the twilight and scents of barbeque, bonfire, and marijuana I drift north. Near Wall Street, a sign catches my eye and piques my curiosity.

The telephone contact employed by “Tod” and “Rich” is also associated with one Jeffrey Hunter, self-professed Northern California “MasterMind Mentor” and “21st Century Renaissance Man.” Jeff espouses the Law of Attraction, wherein a universal dynamic quantum physics energy field magnetizes things -primarily cold, hard cash- to your general direction.

In a humble East Vancouver neighbourhood adjacent to the port, train yards and the industrial strength processing of animal remains I’ve stumbled upon the presence of a post-new age California guru’s Science of Getting Rich: think positively, invest heavily in Vancouver real estate, and soon you’ll be ordering “the $100 bottle of wine with dinner.”

Cash Money

by Zbigniew


In a recent interview, London Drugs President & CEO Wynne Powell noted that the half-block straddling, ponderously vanilla condo/megastore Alba project in Hastings Sunrise (also known as HASTINGS SUNRISE) is on hold.

“There’s no financial trouble with us,” Powell says.

Whew! That’s a relief! For a second there I thought a developer was going to lose some money.

Instead, the suspension is due to a “slowdown” in presales and the failure of the project to achieve its 60% threshold. This is an understatement in sharp contrast to the oversized placards that hang over the 2500 block of East Hastings. Something the article fails to note is that only 10% of the 110-odd units had “firm commitments.”

The community “will benefit at this point from a little bit of a rest to give the market a chance to mature a little bit.” There’s still some water in Mr. Powell’s glass -a little bit, anyways.

Personally, I think the community, the Hastings Sunrise community, would have benefited from the continued presence of the 10 storefronts that were demolished a year ago, when the speculative threshold had been breached.

Meanwhile, a massive cheque cashing franchise has moved into the andesite structure on the southwest corner of Hastings & Nanaimo –a former bank. It’s bright yellow awning shouts “CASH MONEY.” Hardly the stuff of re-branded neighbourhoods.

Or, maybe it is.