TEA & TWO SLICES: On Painted Stupidity And Vancouver’s Inability To Dress Itself

September 20, 2011 

by Sean Orr | So The Tyee remembers Greenpeace, but fails to even mention this past Saturday’s #Occupywallstreet demonstration led by a different Vancouver-based activist organisation. The Tyee column is called mediacheck (better check yo selfs before you wreck yo selfs).

Unfortunately, I will be renouncing my D.N.C membership after they spraypainted “Gentrifuckation” in front of L’Abattoir in Gastown. How is a local, independent restaurant staffed with industry veterans (and bearded iconoclastic dishwashers) akin to a Cactus Club at Main and Hastings? Don’t get me wrong, I used to be angry and irrational too (I still am), but now I see that the word gentrification alone is meaningless.

By blanketing all development as evil, protesters demean themselves. Condos are one thing, but even Habititat For Humanity’s no frills housing for the middle class is attacked? Why didn’t they go south instead and tour the real, unchecked gentrification that is Yaletown? Gastown was gentrified about 40 years ago as a way of preventing the real destructive power of gentrification in the form of freeway development (see Project 200).

One can almost invert the subject of Obama’s words from rich people to these protesters: “This is not class warfare. It’s math.”

A thoughtful rebuttal from Rabble: Vancouver Beat Cop launches blog about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Traversing the nuances between exploitation and exposure.

Tweet of the Day: lindsaykines, “Canada Starts Here. Is that Christy Clark’s job strategy or her next radio show”?

Runner Up: DouglasHaddow, “New Tory crime bill will send 3K marijuana industrialists to prison. That’s a 1 in 100 chance if you grow. It’s like a really shitty lottery”.

A ranking I can finally get behind: Vancouver 3rd in worst-dressed city list.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    Amazing photo.

  • dae strimple

    of course L’Abattoir in Gastown is gentrification. It is the epitome of gentrification and your inability to recognize your own hypocrisy is not surprising as the message you so piously flog is akin to the days old failure of the self absorbed not looking in their own closet for the destruction of the world. Put the iphone away and stop the destruction of Namibia for REE to build iphone 5

  • Scout Magazine

    I’ve been to Namibia. It’s very pretty and warm. Good hunting too, and they make this special German-Afrikaans jerky there that is…wait…there’s an iPhone 5 coming out? Sweet!

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    I don’t even own a regular phone let alone an i one.

  • Dave Ross

    I’m a little unsure why Scout (and many others) so often bash Cactus Club and some of the other chain restaurants in favour of the “local, independent operators” Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the independents, in fact I think that’s why we are so blessed in Vancouver to have such a rich and diverse restaurant scene. However, aren’t Cactus Club a local restaurant group? If you trace back their origins 15 or 20 years weren’t they the pioneer, independent restaurants that were helping to bring something new to the scene and push the industry forward? Are you really so hypocritical that we can expect in 10 years you to be bashing the independents we all know and love at the moment (many of Scout’s current supporters) quite so blatantly for nothing more than because they are successful? Whether or not you like the chains, we can all learn something from them (frozen bellini’s and overuse of Alize / Hpnotiq etc. aside). Let’s face it, we all work in one of the most difficult industries in the world, we only need to look at the quality restaurants in this city that have gone under over the last couple of years! I believe we should be celebrating those are successful, picking up on the things they execute well and learning from them. With most restaurants closing their doors within 3 years, lets not get down on those that are still in business after more than 20!

  • http://douglashaddow.tumblr.com Douglas Haddow

    Hey Dae,

    What kind of device did you transcribe your comment on, was it one of those new fair-trade, mining-neutral, locally-sourced organic wood laptops I’ve been hearing so much about? If so, I commend you’re conscientiousness

    And I agree that L’Abattoir is “gentrification” (which is bad right). I think the city should have made a specialized zoning bylaw that kept that place a jail forever.

    Jails not cocktails!

  • twirlip

    The block that L’Abattoir is on has been that way for years, so it’s a weird target for the protesters. (I’m not sure why the fact that it’s “local” and “independent” would mean it’s not gentrification, though.) Likewise, the gentrification process is already complete in Yaletown — there’s no low-income population left to push out. It’s behind the battle lines, so to speak.

    But 60 West Cordova *is* actively gentrifying the DTES. It is new middle-class housing in a low-income neighborhood. Those condos are affordable by Vancouver standards, but they’re still way out of reach for the people who already live in the area. Even if no one is being directly displaced (that particular property used to be a parking lot), it’s part of a change to the character of the neighborhood that will ultimately force the people living there now to move out.

    Whether it’s entirely a bad thing to have middle-class people moving into the DTES is a separate question. But it is certainly gentrification.

  • Hungry Foodie

    Jim Green learned a long time ago that you make more progress working with the other side then you do against them. It’s a shame that others can’t learn. The other side is only your enemy if you choose them to be, otherwise they are just your neighbours.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    This is great! @dave ross: I wasn’t necessarily bashing Cactus Club (this time), although the fact that the owner donates money to Sarah Palin might be relevant, I was merely using it as a parable, as though things have gotten so bad that there are chain restaurants at the fabled Main and Hastings.

    @Twirlip. My entire point is that there needs to be a qualifier in front of the word gentrification. For example the reason there is NO LONGER low income people in Yaletown is because that gentrification was left UNCHECKED. The gentrification of Gastown started in the 70s (Steam clock, blood alley) and certainly continues to this day. Yet the result, imho, is a wonderful mish-mash of tourist shops, low income hotels, fancy furniture stores, art galleries, and many partnerships with low-income advocacy groups (Community Vintage, The Metropole Community Pub, W2), and there still exists a vibrant street culture evidenced by the aforementioned DNC’s Sunday Street Market. My point is that this is one of the only successful mixed neighbourhoods in the city, and it has taken about 40 years to get like this. The influx of restaurants isn’t the beginning of some sort of massive displacement, it’s a filling in of the gaps- a fait accompli.

    As far as 60W Cordova is concerned I implore you to research Soft Gentrification. This is when, as is the case in Vancouver, regular housing prices are so high that middle income earners start to move into low-income dwelling, thus ACTUALLY displacing them (and not displacing a parking lot, as you mentioned). The reason Yaletown has the image it has is precisely because this kind of thing was not included in the original planning stages. (oh and yes, there were plenty of low income earners displaced by the gentrification of Yaletown). So my assertion is that projects like this are effectively PREVENTING gentrification.

  • Scout Magazine

    I think it’s the founder of Earls who is the fan of Palin’s

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    OK well they gave iPads to their managers if they gathered enough memberships to the BC Liberals.

  • Barb

    I would enjoy seeing some Ghettofication tags, cause heck, lets be clear on what the DTES used to be- a thriving downtown neighbourhood, the original one in fact with both business and residential components. Can we recognize that ‘restoration’ is a factor here?
    There are levels of Gentrification, some areas worse than others. But there are many examples of how projects of redevelopment are less impactful than they ultimately could be.
    Consider the fact also that we, as working class 20 or 30 somethings, CAN NEVER/BARELY AFFORD to purchase housing in the City we are born in and still continue to live in. I would argue that renting is also an issue of unaffordability to us- housing costs are not exclusively a low-income issue.
    So is it so terrible to create market housing that is actually accessible to the average Vancouverite? Or should affordable housing only be accessible to low income?

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    ^exactly

  • twirlip

    I completely agree that there’s a huge gap between low-income housing and typical market housing in Vancouver, and it’s cool that 60 W. Cordova is trying to fill it. (It’s the first time I ever saw property for sale in this city and thought, “Hey, *I* could almost afford that!”) I do wish they’d found somewhere else to build it, though, because that neighborhood doesn’t have enough housing for the people who already live there, and those folks can’t afford a $219,000 condo. Facing northwest, 60 W. Cordova looks like a breakwater, slowing down the wave of gentrification; facing southeast, it looks like another place the locals don’t get to live.

    Point taken that the gentrification in the DTES could be a lot more brutal than it has been. I think strident groups like the DNC and its predecessors/associates have had a lot to do with that, as over-the-top as they might sometimes seem.

    I’m not super sanguine about the current mix in that area. Gentrification is a process — just because you take a snapshot right now and think the mix looks all right doesn’t mean that mix is sustainable. I expect it will continue to move in the direction of the high-priced and high-income, because they’ve been moving steadily that way for as long as I’ve lived in Vancouver. It seems like a lot of the more community-oriented places in the DTES are facing serious funding problems; there will probably be a lot fewer spaces like Gallery Gachet a few years from now, which will change the mix for the worse. And I know the business owners in that Dependent article don’t necessarily have bad intentions, but those businesses can be pretty unwelcoming to the local population even when they don’t mean to be. I’ve seen Hastings St. regulars come into the Save-On-Meats diner, and the staff were never discourteous, but it still seemed like the whole place was giving out this “you don’t belong” vibe. Maybe that’s a necessary evil, and yeah, making the DTES a permanent ghetto hardly seems like a good solution. But I think even soft gentrification is a lot less soft when you’re on the receiving end.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    Yeah, I mean, I used to be constantly associated with groups like PHS, or DERA, or APC for my unequivocal stance towards housing in the neighbourhood. Which I was never against Woodwards, just was sort of turned off by the whole “Woodwards is going to save the world” ideology. We must pick our battles, and concede when we have won. And although it is not nearly enough, we must recognize that we made the oh-so stubborn, free market demi-gogues- the Frankenstein that is THE BC LIBERALS- concede a handful of new housing developments in the area.

    For every W2 however, there is a RedGates. We may lick these wounds, but we must, somehow, try and salvage something from the successes, and I include 60W Cordova as a success.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    I want to keep talking but I’m tired. Come and see me at Pecha Kucha18 for a nice, big, cohesive rant.

  • Jessica

    gentrification is a process. small, independent, high-end local businesses, that a lot of the surrounding community cannot afford, have a role to play in it. as do the educated or social capital-rich young professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, creative people, free-lancers who frequent these establishments and also make homes in areas that are “up in coming”. I think we have a responsibility to be conscious of this. it doesn’t mean that local business is bad and that young people in their 20s and 30s cannot move into a lower income neighborhood, but we also need to be open to criticism, conscious of the intentional and unintentional roles we play in city politics and development, and self-reflexive. it is challenging, but if we want our cities to not only have awesome shops, cafes, bars, show venues and restaurants, but also be welcoming to equitable communities, we can’t just drop out of the process of engagement because we get criticized.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    My argument, is that Gastown is itself a manifestation of opposition to a very different kind of gentrification in the form of the Great Automobile and the rush to build freeways. All of a sudden it’s heritage itself became a kind of commodity, and in conjunction with a myriad of affinity groups, was essentially invented. Of course this is long after the removal of the tram that served most of the hotels (and Japanese confectionaries) along Hastings (and Powell). It’s also well before the introduction of crack and meth.

    Ergo, I’m pretty sure “up and coming” is irrelevant. The problem is that you have predetermined this as a low-income neighbourhood. Why can’t it just be a neighbourhood?

    Certainly I am open to criticism. But writing “gentricuckation” outside a restaurant, entering it when it is closed and calling people yuppies, IS NOT criticism.

    My entire my point is that Gastown has in fact become a ‘welcoming and equitable community’. Model Express next door to Acme Cafe. The community pub at Metropole. DNC’s Sunday Street Market, The Dugout, W2, Red Gates, Victory Square, Pigeon Park, Crab Park, Army and Navy, Community Vintage, Jazz Fest, Old Spaghetti Factory, Blood Alley, Gaolers Mews, Steam Clock, Blarney Stone, Irish Heather, Glory Hotel, Artspeak, Parking Spot (Scott Hawthorn), Club 23 West, New Fountain, The Stanley, S.U.C.C.E.S.S, Community Court, Gallery Gachet, PHS Clinic, United We Can.