Pete McMartin in the Sun covers a contentious issue:
Last Friday, at the corner of Jervis and Pendrell in the West End, a ceremony was held to unveil what is known as the West End Sex Workers Memorial.
It’s a Victorian-style lamppost with a red light honouring the neighbourhood’s sex workers who plied their trade from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. “Today, we commemorate and honour their lives,” its inscription stated. The City of Vancouver paid $28,000 for its construction.
Unstated on the memorial, but not left unsaid in speeches at the memorial’s unveiling, was its censure of West End citizens, politicians and the provincial legal community who, at that time, acted to force sex workers out of the neighbourhood.
“Censure,” however, is too watery a word in this case, since the memorial’s proponents drew a line of causation between the sex workers’ exile from the West End and, ultimately, murder. They claim the sex workers’ forced migration out of the West End to the Seymour and Richards strolls, and to the Downtown Eastside, left them vulnerable to predators like Robert Pickton.
“These actions,” said city councillor Andrea Reimer, near tears, “reflected how the community broadly saw safety at that time. We now know that that view and those actions resulted in great harm to others in the community, namely sex workers. Not just harm — that’s a very soft word for the abduction, torture and murder of many women.” She added that the memorial was “a reminder to me and our community that justice has to live for everyone or it lives for none of us.”
A few days prior to the unveiling, former city councillor and urban planner Gordon Price received a call from someone in the city’s social planning department. The call was a heads-up. In 1980, Price had been a founding member of CROWE — Concerned Residents of the West End — and as such, had organized efforts to deal with what many residents felt had become an intolerable public nuisance.
In the 1980s, the neighbourhood had become an open bazaar. Police had identified some 350 sex workers in the West End — 40 to 50 of whom might be working the streets at any one time. Non-residents came to gawk. There were complaints of noise, increased traffic, public urination, sidewalk confrontations and residents being propositioned for sex. Problems were exacerbated when sex workers, who traditionally had stuck to Davie, began working residential streets.
In 1984, when the attorney-general’s department asked the B.C. Supreme Court to grant an injunction against the sex workers, West End residents filed over 70 affidavits detailing their complaints. Even a lawyer representing a group of sex workers admitted that “no one questions that the residents of the West End are suffering of the conduct complained of.”
To Price, however, it wasn’t a question of eradicating the West End of prostitution. It was a matter of restoring peaceful cohabitation. That peaceful cohabitation, for him and other residents, had been shattered.
Said Price: “The point of CROWE — and we reiterate this constantly — we’re not talking about prostitution here. If government wants to legalize it and regulate it, great! But there is a fundamental question, about as Canadian as you get, of peace, order and good government. Do the people who live here have a reasonable expectation that there will be, you know, a fundamental level of civility? That their streets aren’t going to be effectively a 24-hour sex bazaar? And … if government can’t or isn’t willing to demonstrate to maintain peace and order, what happens then?”
With the law unwilling or unable to do anything about the residents’ concerns, groups like CROWE and Shame The Johns did what other resident associations had always done — they organized and fought for the integrity of their neighbourhood.
Coun. Reimer may feel the community interpreted the proper level of safety “broadly,” which, as I read her comments, was so broad as to be narrow-minded. But if “justice has to live for everyone or it lives for none of us,” as she said, then the question must be asked: If there was no justice for the residents which afforded them peace and civility, what were they to do?
“The way that the narrative is being written,” Price said, “and this to me seems to be what it’s kind of about, is that the diversity of the West End and the longtime presence of street-soliciting hookers on Davie was disrupted by a small group of people who were basically — as I read it, and I have read it, because I have seen it in one thesis, at least — in a moral panic and basically driven by concern about property values, forced the prostitutes out — and I’m not sure if they say it quite this bluntly, but, you know — into the hands of Pickton.
“And in a way, you know, there’s blood on (the residents’) hands. That’s the most provocative part of it, that they make that connection, which I find appalling and illogical. And this is where I feel very sad,” Price said, “because I’m apparently the bad guy. And I’m deeply hurt.”
Like all memorials, this one was made in hindsight. But this memorial stretches hindsight beyond its breaking point, and rewrites history to reflect a one-sided and unfair culpability.
Will the next memorial, to draw from just one of many possibilities, apologize for the thousands of people who have died from disease and overdose in the Downtown Eastside because they have been conveniently ghettoized there by the city, province and the hundreds of social welfare agencies concentrated there — with the tacit agreement of all the citizens of Metro Vancouver?
And by mentioning it, have I just given someone another wrong-headed idea?
PT: Three questions, at least, arise from this:
Did the City sufficiently consult with those in the West End impacted by the street-soliciting scene that moved onto their residential streets in the late 1970s and early ’80s?
Would the City consider some recognition of those times and concerns, or is the judgment of Council now that the outcome was an injustice and the actions taken were wrong?
If there was a return of street soliciting to the West End (unlikely in the age of the Internet), or a movement into other neighbourhoods, or a continuation of those strolls where it already exists, would the City take any action – or, if not, affirm that a safe space for sex workers is a higher priority than the impacts on residents in those communities?
PT: I joined Mobi as a founder member; it seemed the right thing to do – even though I was doubtful that I would use the system all that much. (I have a couple of bikes conveniently stored in the locker rooms of my building; I generally commute from the West End to downtown. What more do I need?)
And yet, to my surprise, I’ve been using Mobi more than I ever expected.
First of all (and critically), it is convenient. With a docking station across the street (one of three on the Chilco Bikeway), it’s just as fast to grab a Mobi as to go to the basement, open locked doors, and head out through the garage.
With the Transit App interface, I can check to see if docks are available at my destination station.
More often, though, I use bikeshare on my return home (it’s mostly downhill) if I took transit, taxi or had a lift into the city in the morning. Weather, clearly, plays a role, and I’m more willing to choose the best option available now that I have more choices.
But here’s what I didn’t really take into account: I now take a Mobi if I have to meet someone, typically in the West End, and know that I will be walking with them to another destination like a restaurant. I then don’t have to take my personal bike with me, awkwardly walking it on crowded sidewalks, nor do I have to think about getting back to wherever I might have first racked my bike. I just check the app for the closest Mobi docking station.
In a way, I’ve been liberated from my bike.
Another unexpected use: I came in by SkyTrain from Surrey last night, expecting to transfer to the local bus when I arrived downtown. But I found that it would take about ten minutes for the Robson 5 to arrive (thank you again, real-time Transit App) – and so it was a faster choice to use Mobi for the final leg.
Another surprise: I’m using the helmet – partly because I’m used to wearing helmets, partly because I have to pick one up when the bike and cord are released, partly because so far there’s always been one with every Mobi I’ve used. Looks like the system is working.
Final surprise: I’m amazed how much Mobi is being used generally, if my local docking station is an indication. Within a day of its launch, more than half the bikes were apparently in use.
21 bikes or one SUV
The feel of the central area is most definitely changing – much more like what I’ve experienced in Europe. As the car continues to drop out as a dominant mode, Vancouver becomes more like other world cities that have made the same commitments to walking and cycling. Sure, it’s summer; it’s only a small segment of the city; there’s much less car ownership and use. But still, it feels like we’ve now passed a point of no return, and that, as more infrastructure comes along, so will we.
And for those still begrudging the changes, including many in my own building – get over it. Or better yet, get on a Mobi.
This is useful: a docking station right at the entrance to the neighbourhood supermarket at Robson and Denman:
When you need a single spice for a recipe or to pick up that litre of milk you forgot, when it seems a little too far to walk for a single item and driving is just silly, bikeshare is the perfect option. Now we just need more docking stations within the West End residential areas.
Michael Gordon, noting the return of Michael Mortensen to Vancouver, reminded us about this video:
… here’s a documentary about families with children living downtown and in the West End and Michael and his family are amongst those we interviewed in their apartment in 2006
The experience of families with children and teenagers living in two downtown Vancouver neighbourhoods – Yaletown and the West End.
In a fossilized yet timeless look , CBC Vancouver produced this for their show “Camera West”. Apparently much of the footage was taken lazily by a camera stuck out the window of a moving car, and far too much screen time is spent leering at women. Very 1966.
But most fossilized of all is the repeated assertion in the sententious voice-over that the West End was home to “. . . the new mid-century hybrid — the swinger”. My guess is that the writer may have been influenced by a trashy movie called “the Swinger“, released in 1966, in which an author writes a steamy sex novel, and then acts out its fantasies (orgies of voluptuous carnality). If not, then perhaps a related definition of this thoroughly obsolete term is enough.
And yes, there are bicycles.
See the 9:33 length video excerpt HERE.
Just to add a sour note to an otherwise sunny day with the soft launch of Mobi, here’s a tired, snarky column by a National Post columnist. Though published a few days ago, it seems like it comes from the last decade. ‘War on the Car’? So Rob Ford.
But what is new (and startling) is the disconnect between the free-market ideology of the NatPost and the antipathy to using the price mechanism to allocate a scarce resource like street parking in the West End, encouraging the use of surplus private parking otherwise noncompetitive.
VANCOUVER — A war is being waged in Vancouver’s streets. Led by green-by-all-means mayor Gregor Robertson, City Hall has identified and vilified its enemy, the car. The private automobile. …
Some of the city’s new traffic-clogging, business-blocking lanes are seldom used, but that’s of little concern to two-wheeler preachers and sanctimonious scolders who aren’t dependent on cars for their livelihoods. More dedicated bike lanes are on the way.
Planning a move to Vancouver’s West End, a densely populated, mostly working-class neighbourhood wedged between the downtown core and beloved Stanley Park? Better think twice about bringing a car. City Hall would much prefer you leave the thing behind. You’re better to sell it. Sell it now.
A staff report delivered to city council this month recommends that any newcomer seeking a city parking permit in the West End be slapped with a 700 per cent fee increase. Current permit fees for existing residents are far too low, at $80 a year, explain city planners. Better to charge incoming residents at a “market rate,” which the city has determined to be $50 a month, or a punishing $600 a year.
The proposed permit fee increase would not apply to other neighbourhoods.
According to Vancouver transportation director Lon LaClaire, there are 16,000 registered vehicles in the West End, about one for every three residents, and more than enough parking spaces to accommodate them all: 22,000 off-street (mostly underground) private parking spaces and 2,700 on-street permit spaces.
A 700 per cent fee increase for a city street parking permit would force car owners to consider either giving up their vehicles, or renting an unused private space from, say, a neighbouring building. LaClaire says there are thousands of empty parking spaces sitting underground.
Would the owners of those private parking spaces be persuaded to rent out their spaces to strangers? Who knows.
What is certain, says LaClaire, is that the proposed fee increase would discourage locals from parking their vehicles on the street. It would be a costly inconvenience for them, but a possible boon for West End visitors, who typically spend about 10 minutes circling the block, looking for a place to park.
City of Vancouver has placed at least two of these message boards in the West End, hoping to attract people to discuss the proposed changes to parking regulations there.
The signs, normally used to deliver various messages to motor vehicle drivers, here rotate through a 4-message panel, urging people to get involved in the consultation process.
Will this be enough to help diminish the cries of “no consultation”? And will we ever get widespread realization that consultation does not confer veto power?
Pride activities begin with the opening at a significant new public space in the heart of the Davie Village:
Indeed, Jim Deva Plaza will create a heart for the Davie Village by permanently closing half the south block of Bute Street, providing a flexible multi-use space:
The crosswalks on Davie have also been refreshed (hey, a square rainbow!):
But as Thomas Donovan notes in Facebook, this wasn’t the first time or place for the rainbow:
The concept of municipal governments painting rainbow colours on city property to show political support for the GLBTQ Community, was first demonstrated by Vancouver the day before Canada legalized same-sex marriage in July 2005!
Regardless of how the federal government decision turned out, the City wanted the world to know that Vancouver completely supported the GLBTQ community, and displayed that support with it’s rainbow coloured stairway at city hall.
I am so proud to have been the Pride Event Producer who came up with the concept of painting the steps. I pulled together a team of community volunteers and we painted the giant staircase leading up to city hall the very afternoon before Vancouver’s annual Pride Launch event, which by no coincidence was the day Canada legalized same sex marriage.
The West End is like most other parts of Vancouver — always changing. Here’s a building nearing completion on Harwood St near Jervis.
A. Fit with the ‘hood: here’s maximum sleekness in a diverse place.
B. Exterior treatment isn’t green glass and grey. The exterior in one place seems to be a randomly placed assortment of aluminium panels with an overall pattern; and in other places, complete coverage with no pattern.
The site at 1245 Harwood was a source of significant controversy in the West End in 2014 when Council decided to allow the demolition of the Legg mansion. (Here’s the Sun’s story, with video by John Mackie. And the Price Tags item: “Tiptoeing past the Tulip Tree: How much do people really value heritage?“)
The unfortunate choice seemed to be the loss of the house or removal of one of the largest tulip trees in the West End (or, arguably, anywhere). Council changed its opinion several times, influenced in part by residents behind the site who wanted the maximum view.
Today, a small tower designed by Bing Thom Architects is almost finished:
The gray screens have imprints of tree leaves. Cute.
As part of the West End plan, new density was to be concentrated on the western end of Davie Street, leaving the Gay Village up the hill as a more low-rise streetfront. And so the one-storey spec commercial buildings from Denman to Cardero became highly desirable. This one is soon to go:
To be replaced by this:
It retains the commercial frontage but, at least in the rendering, lacks very much architectural interest, while significantly changing the scale of the street.
Ian Young has produced another remarkable story for the South China Morning Post.
The implications are profoundly disturbing. Not only is the real-estate market disconnected from local supply-and-demand considerations but increasingly the ability of the City to plan for its residents looks to be threatened. When the West End plan was being considered a year or so ago, no one imagined the deal outlined below: a 60-storey tower priced out of the realm of even affluent Vancouverites, valuable accommodation being left empty, and unimaginable pressure being put on the West End and its affordable housing stock.
This will only add to the seismic forces that are building just under the surface, waiting for a political earthquake to shake the status quo – that sense that our leaders, public and private, are incapable of responding or, at higher levels, do not care about the consequences.
The prominent Vancouver property developers behind Wall Financial Corporation had spent C$16.8 million (HK$102 million) to buy two ageing walk-up apartment blocks on adjacent lots on Nelson Street in 2013. They had big plans for the downtown site: a glittering 60-storey residential skyscraper, taking advantage of the location within the city’s West End Community Plan, where a building could rise 168 metres tall under new zoning. The project was dubbed “Nelson on the Park” and the Walls turned to favourite designer Chris Doray to come up with what they hoped would be a new Vancouver landmark.
But now a consortium of investors was proposing something even more remarkable.
They would pay the Walls C$60 million for the site alone, which had just been valued at C$15.6 million by BC Assessment. The huge profit was impossible to resist, and the sale was completed in late January.
Doray, a 25-year veteran of the Vancouver development scene whose design has now been shelved, said he was “astonished” by the transaction, which he said set a new benchmark for commercial real estate in the city.
“The price on this block of land has now thrown everybody in the industry out of whack,” said Doray. “The property is worth, what, C$20 million, and somebody pays C$60 million? One wonders what’s going on. Is this New York? Is this Hong Kong?”
The scale of the purchase, orchestrated by Sun Commercial Real Estate (Suncom) – a firm that specialises in pooling wealthy investors from Vancouver’s Chinese immigrant community – was exceptional enough.
But an investigation by the South China Morning Post now reveals the strange and frantic backdrop to the transaction – including a two-hour stampede by Suncom’s investors, desperate for a slice of the deal. It is a transaction that also sheds light on the rush of Chinese money fuelling Vancouver’s soaring real estate market.
… capital outflows from China were reaching a fever pitch, as companies and individuals scrambled to send money overseas last year in record volumes ahead of a feared yuan devaluation. The Canadian dollar was also plummeting, making Canadian property relatively more affordable to yuan earners, and average detached house prices in metro Vancouver soared more than 40 per cent last year, hitting an average of C$1.8 million. …
And so, against this heady backdrop on the morning of October 12, Suncom threw open the gates for the Nelson Street sale.
The result was nothing short of a frenzy.
“The 60 million dollars project at 1065 Nelson St Vancouver’s shares sold out in two hours! Thank you very much for the supporting from all my clients!” Lau announced on Facebook on October 14. …
Fundraising tactics used in deals involving Suncom have previously drawn the attention of the BC Securities Commission, which in January announced it was reviewing the firm’s activities, partly in response to an SCMP article about whether the firm was involved in crowdfunding. …
Keeping up with the changing ownership of the Nelson Street site has been no simple matter.
The changes do not show up in land titles for the two lots, because they remain to this day in the hands of Nelson Street Residences Ltd, a firm set up by the Walls in 2013 which was added to the titles in March 2014.
Instead, it is ownership of Nelson Street Residences that has changed hands, thereby avoiding property transfer taxes of C$1.78 million for Suncom’s consortium. The share-transfer tactic is common among commercial real estate deals and perfectly lawful. …
Chris Doray, who designed Vancouver’s Wall Centre and was again commissioned by Bruno and Peter Wall for the ill-starred Nelson on the Park project, has watched the site change hands with a mounting sense of disbelief.
His innovative design for the site, nicknamed the “pixelated tower”, was shortlisted at the 2015 World Architecture Festival in Singapore. It features a lattice-like façade that seems to dissolve into the sky.
But Doray now considers the plans shelved. “[They] weren’t so much interested in the project, but more in the land, as an investment,” Doray said of the consortium that bought the site off the Walls.
The widespread industry rumour – since confirmed by the SCMP – that the site had already been flipped seemed to validate Doray’s suspicions that the previous sale was a purely “speculative purchase”. …
He said that in a quarter century of involvement in Vancouver’s real estate scene he had seen nothing like the transactions linked to the Nelson Street lot. “I cannot believe that people will pay that kind of money for a plot of land. The whole industry is astonished.” …
Designer Doray, who understands the potential of the site as well as anyone, isn’t so sure. “If the developer pays C$60 million for the piece of land, can you imagine what any condos on it would sell for, if they finally finish this project?” Doray said, laughing. “It will be untouchable – well, for the local market. It could only be an elite group of people at this price.”
“Tales From the West End” is an evening to explore and experience our community through stories about our common past.
This month writer, historian and musician Aaron Chapman is our featured story teller. Aaron has tales to tell from his award winning 2015 book Live at the Commodore.
You are encouraged to listen, sketch and bring your own stories and historic photographs of the West End to share with the community.
Tuesday, April 19
5:45-7:30 – story telling from 6 -7 pm
JJBean Coffee Shop, 1209 Bidwell Street (Bidwell & Davie)
Admission: Free, Complimentary coffee and tea thanks to JJBean
Vancouver Deputy Mayor Heather Deal has a number of portfolios – usually all the ways to make sure our City is becoming delightful – including Arts & Culture. She is passionate about the topic and a Councillor Liaison to the Arts & Culture Policy Council so I asked her to tell me more. She shared stories about her conversations with Vancouverites on public art.
Poodle (no official name) by Gisele Amantea got negative media when someone from the area complained that Main Street isn’t a poodle neighbourhood. Which is awesome because public art got people talking about the identity of their neighbourhood.
There were also complaints about cost and it not being a local artist (both based on inaccurate reporting).
(TP note: How many of our public art pieces have their own Twitter account? Follow @MainStPoodle)
When people complain to me about the poodle, I ask them what piece of public art they do like.
2. A-mazing Laughter
9/10 answer: A-mazing Laughter at English Bay – a Vancouver Biennale piece. So I ask them 3 questions about it:
Does it reflect the West End?
How much did cost?
Where is the artist from?
No one can answer that. Not one person to date.
(TP: I was able to answer all 3 – including who negotiated the counteroffer and donated it.)
3. The Third Piece
Then I ask for opinions about a third piece of public art. Very few can name one. Some come up with Myfanwy MacLeod’s The Birds in Olympic Village.
Some can name Giants by OSGEMEOS on Granville Island – another biennale piece from an international artist team.
4. I love it when people talk about our city.
Art is a great place to start that conversation. Learn about the hundreds of pieces of public art in Vancouver at the City’s website here.
5. Notice art.
Think about whether you like it or don’t. Look it up and learn about the artist and their inspiration.
Did you know that the poodle was made by an artist living in the region at the time and that it was inspired by the antique shops on Main Street? (TP: I had no idea.)
We also want to encourage people to think about what they like and want in public spaces such as art (murals, pieces, etc.) and what type of programmed space, festivals, and unprogrammed squares or plazas they’d like.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be entertained? Amused? Challenged?
Reminded of something in our history, negative or positive?
Awed? Do you want to be able to interact with it?
Does it compel you to take a selfie with it?
Let’s work backwards from September, 2016. Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place, almost always held in the US, will be in Vancouver. In fact, we’re having a whole Placemaking Week Sept 12-18 AND celebrating Jane’s 100th birthday (may she rest in peace).
Vancouver Bike Share (the temporary name until CycleHop announces a sponsor) launches in June, expands in July, and should be running smoothly by September. Inshallah.
Five protected bike lanes downtown are to be built and finished by the end of July, 2016. Yes, 2016. It sounds like more than it is. Some are little blips on the map.
Cambie, Smithe, Nelson, Beatty, and Richards.
Here’s my 2 cents: I applaud the speed and approach. We should be constructing multiple lanes at once. Building upon and expanding the current AAA network is key.
The couplets on Nelson and Smithe (one-way on each street in same direction as vehicles) are: on Nelson from Richards to Beatty (shouldn’t that go to the Cambie Street Bridge?) and on Smithe from the bridge to Richards. If Nelson/Smithe went as far as Hornby instead, people would have so many more options and we would almost have a complete All Ages and Abilities (AAA) link from Yaletown to the West End.
Linking the bike lane on Homer Street northbound for one more little block from Georgia to Dunsmuir’s protected bike lane would help. Surely continuing the bi-directional protected bike lane on Dunsmuir for one block west to Burrard – a major transit hub of Burrard Station – is also a priority. Don’t make me take the one-way painted bike lane the wrong way for a block! #ungapthemap
Some of the bike lanes in the plan could conflict with vehicles turning. Please be careful in the final design.
You have 24 more hours to email your comments on this project. You might as well take a look right now. View the information displays from the March 8, 2016, open house and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 25.