CITY BRIEFS: Annual TED Conference To Leave Long Beach For Vancouver In 2014

TED is moving to Vancouver, perhaps permanently. Since its beginnings in 1984, the annual technology/design conference – best known for its fascinating “talks” and interviews – has been based in Long Beach, California. The news that it is upping sticks and moving north to our fair shore (with its 2000 or so delegates) comes as a happy surprise.

Mark Brand says it best above as he walks on stage: Wow.

In 2014, TED will celebrate our 30th anniversary. And to mark this spectacular event, we’re planning something very special. We are moving our annual West Coast conference from Long Beach, California, to Vancouver, Canada. From March 17 to March 21, 2014, TED will be held in this great city, which boasts a thriving spirit of innovation as well as stunning views — the harbor and mountains in the same scenic vistas.

Read the good news here.

CITY BRIEFS: On Dwarfing A Sugar Baron’s Heritage Mansion With Development Folly

September 14, 2012 

by Ellen Johnston | Last December I wrote an article that looked into the origins of Vancouver street names, focusing on the “who” and the “where” that have defined us as a city. But what I neglected to mention is that there are more to street names than the names themselves. There’s what comes after, whether it be “street” or “avenue” or “lane” or that most of elusive of thoroughfares, the “mews”. I recently found myself researching the controversial Shannon Mews development in south Vancouver, and before I could get too far, I couldn’t help but ask “what the hell is a mews?” There’s something about the word; unlike “street” or “avenue”, it just rings of affectation, of pretension, of something anglophilic or quaint, belonging to the same family as fake thatched cottages or ye olde Christmas shoppes, something found on southern Vancouver Island. I’m not downplaying oddball naming or anything (in general I approve of nomenclatural diversity, be it anglophilic or not), but the word “mews” just seems so out of place in our forward looking city of steel and glass, born of the jagged mountains and the rough and tumble philosophy of the Canadian west.

But Shannon Mews is not without precedent. Afterall, one of Vancouver’s most unusual (and oldest) streets, Gaoler’s Mews, lies right in the heart of our most historic district, Gastown. While it, too, may have been something of an affectation, a name given by a homesick Englishmnn to a street far rom Blighty (Gassy Jack was an English immigrant), Gaoler’s Mews seems consistent with the times. Or at least it seemed plausibly so, until I looked again at Elizabeth Walker’s Street Names of Vancouver and discovered that Gaoler’s Mews was not given its name until 1972!

So what is a mews? Traditionally, it’s a cobbled street, often a dead end, with two rows of terraced (linked) cottages or stables facing each other. And yes, it’s an English thing, and an old one at that. The word mews itself comes from falconry, of all things. A mews was a place where Royal Hawks shedded their feathers (mewed, or in modern English, “moulted”). Over time, the purpose of the mews shifted to the stabling of horses, and then much much later to the housing of people, often servants. While neither hawks nor horses abound in Gastown these days, and it may not be the original name of the street, Gaoler’s Mews still seems to fit much of the criteria for what a mews should be — while it’s not exactly cobbled, it’s not paved either. Bricks line the street. It’s a dead end, too. And for those who are unfamiliar with the English spelling of “gaol”, this was, indeed, the location of the city’s first jail. And it’s quite easy to imagine that this little street having housed the city jailer’s horses once upon a time. After all, Vancouver’s paddy wagons weren’t always motorized. So while Gaoler’s Mews may be an affectation in its own right, perhaps even (like the steam clock) an attempt to lure tourists with its olde-fashionedness to buy made-in-China knick-knackery, at least it’s pretty accurate as a historical and physical describer of the street. Most true mews were never actually named as such. They simply were what they were. Read more

VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #188: We Could Walk It As Diversely As Berkeley

by Ellen Johnston | I recently spent a month in the city of Berkeley, California, a place too independent to be described as a suburb of San Francisco, and yet totally a part of the Bay Area’s metropolitan network. I say this because while it stands in the shadow of its bigger, more glamorous sister across the Bay, it remains such a vital force on its own, through its longstanding political activism, amazing intellectual resources (UC Berkeley ranks as one of the greatest universities in the world), and pivotal role in the local food movement (hello Chez Panisse). While I was there, I found myself considering the differences and similarities between Vancouver and the Bay Area, and what we can learn from them, especially when it comes to urbanism, and the interaction between built environment and culture.

Vancouver has long been compared to San Francisco, and the reasons are palpable: they are both dense, multicultural, located in spectacular natural environments, are very LGBT-friendly, have long traditions of activism, are filled with hippies and weirdos, yoga-pushers and lotus eaters, are home to mild yet often moody weather, have great food and are generally considered to be the most liberal cities in their respective nations. But while this is all true, the actual feeling on the street can be quite quite different, especially because the hyper-density of downtown Vancouver casts an illusion over the whole city, both statistically and physically. Unlike San Francisco’s more uniform mid-rise density, ours is one of great contrasts: a forest of tall residential towers in the downtown core surrounded by the East and the West sides, which, with the exception of a few neighbourhoods, have been hesitant to move beyond the single family dwelling model. Apartments exist, and rowhouses seem to be finally making an incursion into these parts of the city, but they still remain a small fraction of the buildings compared to the downtown core. In short, while our demographics sing San Francisco, the physical reality of Vancouver is something more akin to Hong Kong throwing up on Santa Monica, Portland or – most apt of all – Berkeley. Read more

City Briefs: On Vancouverism & NIMBYism (Or How Sam Sullivan Is Just Plain Wrong)

by Ellen Johnston | It is an unusual coincidence that Vancouver, a city known for its rampant NIMBYism, also happens to be a developer’s dreamscape. Has there been any other city in North America so radically transformed by these often controversial, yet undeniably visionary capitalists in the last twenty-five years? I suppose it’s just a consequence of our city’s relative youth. Vancouver is much easier to mould than cities like New York or San Francisco, where downtowns have long been built out and established neighbourhoods are hesitant to change. But we’ve also been lucky, with mass immigration from places like Hong Kong, where density is the norm, as well as having had city planners who have encouraged smart urban growth.

We could have trod the path of Phoenix, another very young city, that is now (disturbingly) also one of the largest on the continent. To call Phoenix a city seems almost a misnomer since it is really just a massive sprawl where the population lives in unsustainable auto-centric exurbs flung out across the desert; a place where green lawns are more ubiquitous than in our own rain-drenched metropolis (this despite the fact that the sun is king there, and the water will soon run out). So yes, from an urbanist’s perspective, we have been lucky that the changes that have occurred in our own city have led us to become – for the most part – a more interesting, more cosmopolitan and, dare I say it, more urban place.

In recent years, the pattern of Vancouver’s development – specifically in neighbourhoods like Yaletown and Coal Harbour – has been called “Vancouverism”. Defined by tall glass towers on townhouse podiums (which provide a human-scale street front) and public spaces (rather than backyards for people to run and play in), it is a style of urban planning that has been extraordinarily successful in creating liveable inner city neighbourhoods. The irony, however, is that despite “Vancouverism” putting our city on the map as a model urban environment, a majority of our living space looks nothing like this. Try as we might to project an image of our city as one of glass, we are still, unfortunately, also one of ugliness. The Vancouver Special springs to mind. And what to do about them is the next question, since the neighbourhoods they are found in are now on the frontlines of densification. But is the rest of Vancouver really ready for Vancouverism?

I ask this question because I was rather distressed reading the recent comments by former mayor Sam Sullivan about his vision for the future of our city. It’s death to Jane Jacobs, apparently. According to him, towers are the answer, towers in every corner, from Kitsilano to Marpole to Dunbar. If our population were about eight times what is right now, I might have to agree with him. But it’s not, and it won’t be for a long long time, if ever. We need to densify outside the downtown core, certainly, but diversity in architectural styles and planning always makes for more interesting places, and to throw her and her legacy under the bus, or to use Sullivan’s words, “bury Jane Jacobs under concrete”, is a mistake. Jacobs was not anti-density. She simply believed that historical preservation coupled with slower growth infill was the best way to move forward.

Let me begin by stating that I am not a NIMBY. I actually like towers. I love the canyons of downtown Vancouver, the lights high in the night sky, and the fact that so there are so many people living there who use public parks and the seawall as their main sources of outdoor recreation. I believe that towers work extremely well within the fabric of downtown, and could also be applied to great effect at transit nodes all along the Canada, Millennium and Expo Lines. But is this the only model for densification in the city of Vancouver? No! This isn’t even Manhattan’s model, as the densest borough of the densest city in North America. While skyscrapers are the major feature of its skyline, many of its neighbourhoods, like Greenwich Village (which Jacobs herself fought to protect) exist on a much more human scale. And while some might argue that the preservation of smaller scale historic neighbourhoods has actually resulted in higher rents in Manhattan, it’s important to remember that Harlem and Washington Heights are not dominated by high rises either. What makes Manhattan such a fantastic urban environment is that it achieves high density, but density in varying forms, ones which provide many options for many different styles of living. This is something that Vancouver really has yet to embrace.

When it comes to the density debate, Vancouver’s biggest problem is that we are truly a city divided – divided between tall towers and single family homes. Only a few neighbourhoods (Kitsilano, Marpole, False Creek, South Granville and Strathcona, for example) can really be described as occupying a middle ground in terms of housing stock. Even Commercial Drive and Mount Pleasant, arguably the “hippest” parts of the city, are dominated by single family homes. That means that the majority of their moustache wearing, fixed gear riding, pot smoking denizens are bound to be living in those most depressing of Vancouver dwellings: basement suites. But why does it have to be this way? Read more

CITY BRIEFS: On Cruising And Choosing Our Public Art Murals (City-Sanctioned Or Not)

by Ellen Johnston | How do we choose what to depict in public art? Should it be the reality of the present, the legacy of what came before, or an idealized vision of what we want these spaces to look like in times to come? Whatever the case, the choice of subject matter for public art – especially for that of murals – can rarely be said to be purely aesthetic. In the context of the often harsh realities of urban life, art for art’s sake is a luxury few can afford, especially since our city streets provide contexts that simply cannot be ignored (unlike within the confines of a gallery).

One need only examine some of the most famous public art in the world to see that this is the case. In Mexico, the murals of Diego Rivera ask questions about their country’s history, and what it means to live in a Mestizo nation. In Philadelphia, where the Mural Arts Program has produced over three thousand murals, public art adorns decrepit and abandoned buildings, depicting messages of hope in some of the city’s most blighted neighbourhoods. In Derry, where some of the greatest atrocities of the Catholic-Protestant struggles of Northern Ireland occurred, political murals dedicated to the Republican cause stand side by side with ones depicting the innocent victims of The Troubles, and a dove, the symbol of Peace. And this is also the case in Vancouver, where our struggles are fewer and our mural culture is less developed. But there are still many gems that can be found throughout our city, and they can tell us a lot about where we came from, where we are at present, and where we aspire to be in the future.

It is hardly surprising that a high percentage of Vancouver’s murals are found in the vicinity of the Downtown Eastside. Not only is this one of the city’s most historic areas, but it is also a place in which some of our city’s greatest struggles have been fought, and are still being fought today. While most of the murals found hereabouts and in the surrounding areas were created individually, they have now been incorporated into a City of Vancouver program known as “The Great Beginnings Program”, which, according to their website, “supports this initiative through an investment of $10 million over three years to celebrate the history, heritage, and culture of Vancouver’s first urban areas, including the neighbourhoods of Gastown, Chinatown, Japantown, and Strathcona.” The city has now also produced an interactive map of these murals, which can be found at www.MuralsVancouver.ca. Suggested mural walking tours can found on the website, and information about each mural is listed.

As you can see, Multiculturalism is one of the most common themes addressed by our murals. Some highlight the mosaic-like nature of our city and collective efforts to get along, while others draw attention to the struggles of specific communities to find their place in the whole. On the corner of Columbia and Pender, for example, a three-paneled mural called “Snapshots of History” depicts the early lives of Chinese immigrants. On one of the panels, the Goon family is shown. The father went on to become the city editor of the Chinese Times, established in 1914 to chronicle the story of the Chinese in Canada and abroad, while the mother ran a fish shop. Their son, Hung Get Goon, dreamt of becoming a lawyer, but did not succeed due to discrimination. At the mural’s inauguration, Goon’s son said “It’s in memory of our ancestors and how they came out here and how hard it was for them to begin life here in Canada. There was so much discrimination. It was really hard for them to get by — but they survived, they survived.” Just a block and a half away from Vancouver most notorious intersection, Main & Hastings, this mural speaks true in more ways than one, because the continued success of Chinatown is a testament to survival amid so much poverty and addiction. It feels like a world away from Main & Hastings, and yet it is just around the corner.

Other cultures depicted in various murals include the Japanese, Russian, Italian-Canadian and Aboriginal communities, as well as the residents of Vancouver’s oft forgotten first and only black neighbourhood, Hogan’s Alley. Largely razed during the construction of the Georgia Viaduct, this neighbourhood’s most famous denizen was the famous musician Jimi Hendrix, who lived a few blocks east off and on with his grandmother, Nora. A mural depicting Jimi can be found at 1030 East Cordova. Equally unique is the Jimi Hendrix Shrine, located near the corner of Main and Union streets. While it is not officially sanctioned public art in the traditional sense of the term, it contains many pieces both inside and out that are free to the public and visible from a fair distance away. While the Shrine lacks the professional touch of the official Jimi Hendrix mural, its simple vision to commemorate a son of our city is nevertheless commendable.

This is true of several other unsanctioned pieces in and around the Downtown Eastside, whether they be graffiti or postering or words scrawled on a wall. They remind us that Public Art does not have to come from an official source. While some sort of community consensus might be generally preferred for such projects, sometimes an individual’s touch is all that is needed to ask the questions art so often needs to ask. One particular work on the DTES that cannot found on the City of Vancouver’s website states: “Food, home, health + education. Not greed”. It seemed such a simple equation, and yet only two blocks away, a street was blocked off because a TV show called “The Killing” was in the midst of shooting. Cops were telling pedestrians and bikers that they simply had to wait, because the almighty dollar has paid for this street to not be their street anymore, and nevermind the fact that one of the saddest shows on earth was streaming live, mere meters away.

————————————————————————————————-

Ellen Johnston considers herself a wanderer, whether tramping through the rain-soaked streets of Vancouver and attempting to pry loose the layers of our urban fabric, couch-surfing across America, or getting lost in the souks of Marrakech. Since that is not a full time gig, she fills her days with the study of African dance and drumming, writing, piano, and running her own cookie company, Cookie Elf. She grew up in Vancouver, studied in Philly and London, and hopes to see even more of this great big world in the future.

————————————————————————————————-

CITY BRIEFS: On Log Booms, Range Rovers, And Exploring The Fraser River On A Bicycle

by Ellen Johnston | Ask any Vancouverite for directions north, and they’ll point you towards the mountains. Ask them how to get to the water, and they’ll likely give you the same answer too: north – to English Bay, to Burrard Inlet, to the beaches, to False Creek. While there are occasional exceptions, it’s fair to say that that’s how we tend to orient ourselves. Downtown is perched on our northernmost shore, and all the neighbourhoods we love to talk about – Gastown, Yaletown, False Creek, the West End, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Commercial Drive – they are all located in the northern sections of our city. These places are where our heritage is located, where we go out to eat, go to shows, run, bike and shop. This is the Vancouver of postcards, of houseboats and beachfront yoga, of shimmering glass condos and funky coffee shops. As far as many of us are concerned, there is never all that much point in venturing south of King Edward Avenue. And yet, with housing prices on the rise, it’s an inevitability that unless those desirable northern neighbourhoods seriously densify, even the cool kids will have to start moving south.

There’s no reason why they shouldn’t. There’s even a shoreline down there, though we often forget that the Fraser River, so often associated with places like New Westminster and Richmond, runs along our city’s entire southern boundary. That’s why I decided to follow the river myself, and learn what it could tell me about my city, and my own ignorance concerning this oft forgotten southern shoreline. I found that it was a place rich with local history, fantastic maritime views, and an urban fabric that is on the verge of becoming very, very interesting. It’s best seen by bicycle or on foot, since much the shoreline can only be accessed by small paths.

My journey began in Southlands, at the foot of Balaclava Street, where I had heard that there were new developments being built along the water (see my route here). The place where Balaclava meets the Fraser is one of incredible juxtaposition. To the west there lies an old industrial building, and to the east a row of giant new houses. The one nearest is a mansion with a multicar garage, and two new adjoining buildings are being built on the site. Another house had two Range Rovers parked in front. It was quite clear that this development was being styled as a southern equivalent of Point Grey Road or Northwest Marine Drive, though on an even larger scale. And yet it stood across the street from an old industrial building, and just down the road from the site of the Celtic Cannery, one of the Fraser River’s first fish-packing plants, both signs of Vancouver’s fading blue collar past. The irony increased when I saw that the industrial building across from those brand spanking new mansions was the home of Smallworks, one of Vancouver most successful builders of laneway houses. Read more

CITY BRIEFS: On The Origins Of The Iconic Gastown Corner Of Carrall St. & Cordova St.

by Ellen Johnston | Vancouver is a city that, by and large, fits squarely into a uniform street grid. Unless you were raised in a cul-de-sac (we have few of them here), we all grew up at or near the corner of one street and another. Corners are a pillar of urban existence, a way of telling your friends where you live and how they should find you. But how often do we think about what these corners really mean, or what our streets tell us about our very own city? Not very much, I’d bet.

We all know that Vancouver began in Gastown. We’ve learned the story of Gassy Jack and how his boozy ambitions became the origins of the city we live in now. But what about the byways of his new city? When we think of Gastown, several street names come to mind: Water, Carrall, Cordova, and Hastings, to name just a few. The raison d’etre of the first and last are obvious, but what about those two in the middle? Are Carrall and Cordova place names? Are they names belonging to city founders? Are they named after early explorers of the region? What’s the deal?

One of the coolest resources we have for learning more about our city streets is a book called Street Names of Vancouver by Elizabeth Walker. Available online through the Vancouver Public Library, it provides historical information on all avenues, streets, roads, boulevards, terraces and the like. To learn more about the corner of Carrall and Cordova, one need only to look at the index and read the corresponding pages.

Page 20 tells us that Carrall was named after Dr. Robert William Weir Carrall, who lived from 1837 to 1879. He was a doctor (trained at Trinity and McGill) who went down south during the American Civil War to toil as a surgeon on the – phew! – Union side. He was most notably a politician and delegate to Ottawa, where he was sent in 1870 to discuss the terms of British Columbia’s union with Canada. He described himself as “a patriotic Canadian, descended from a race of patriotic Canadians – one of the oldest families in Canada.” One of his biggest fans was Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister. Carrall was also a bit of a softy, who complained how his position in Ottawa caused him to be “worked to death socially – Dinners or Dances every night, and all the next day the anguish of having lost my heart which I invariably do from one to four times every night, oh! why was I created with such susceptibilities? or why on earth [are] the girls so sweet!!!” He remained unmarried until a few months before his death. His new wife (previously widowed) was his former school sweetie. Aw…

Cordova, on the other hand, has foreign origins and is far older.

As pages 27 and 28 reveal, Cordova Street was named after Cordova Channel, a name found on 19th century maps. But where’s Cordova Channel? It no longer exists, or, to be more precise, its name has changed. It’s the original name of Esquimalt Harbour on Vancouver Island. It was given the name “Cordova” in 1790 by Sub-Lieutenant Manuel Quimper of the Spanish Navy. The Cordova in question was the contemporary Viceroy of Mexico, Don Antonio Bucareli y Cordova. To make things even more complicated, Cordova Street used to only be called Cordova west of Carrall, the very corner we have been discussing. Prior to 1897, East Cordova Street was known as Oppenheimer Street, named after the city’s second mayor, David Oppenheimer. Also known as the father of Vancouver, Oppenheimer was of German-Jewish origin, and had come to Vancouver via New Orleans and California.

By examining one little corner of our city, an intersection many of us walk past every day, so much can be learned about our city’s beginnings. Three continents are tied up on that corner. So are at least two religions, two different centuries, and two different countries we could have, in alternate situations, become a part of. For a city that so often relies upon its newness, it’s a lovely reminder that there is history all around us.

What are the origins of your corner? Find out here.

————————————————————————————————-

Above all, Ellen Johnston considers herself a wanderer, whether she be tramping through the rain soaked streets of Vancouver and attempting to pry loose the layers of our urban fabric, couch-surfing across America, or getting lost in the souks of Marrakech. Since wandering is sadly not a full time gig, she also fills her days with the study of African dance and drumming, writing, piano, and running her own cookie company, Cookie Elf. She grew up in Vancouver, studied in Philadelphia and London, and hopes to see even more of this great big world in the future.

————————————————————————————————-

CITY BRIEFS: On Rejuvenating Vancouver’s Shipyards With $8 Billion Worth Of Contracts

October 31, 2011 

by Scott Daniel | My grandfather was a shipbuilder on the North Shore. I’m lucky to remember the christening of one of the last ships his yard built when I was 7 or 8. It’s a one-dimensional memory, mostly revolving around my fascination with swinging and smashing a bottle of booze against the bow of the ship. The North Shore’s been transitioning from working shipyards to a maritime theme park for condo dwellers for more than a decade. But the recent announcement of $8 billion worth of new shipbuilding contracts promises to tip the balance back to industry a little.

The announcement put me in a Robert-Wyatt-sings-Shipbuilding frame of mind  [The Elvis Costello lyrics steer this one home]. Vancouver won’t be building ships for the Falkland’s War, but $8 billion will pay for a lot of winter coats!

What kind of impact will this bucketload of well-paying, industrial jobs have? Some are saying it’ll keep real estate prices inflated. Maybe. But real estate prices here don’t pay much heed to rhyme or reason. With rumours of a big office building boom downtown and major industrial investment across Burrard Inlet, the critique of Vancouver as resort city starts to lose a bit of luster.

And it sounds like this contract will result in a longer term revival of BC shipbuilding since many are predicting the next batch of BC Ferries will be built here. It can’t go any worse than last time, right?

Have you ever watched this Skytrain movie? You should. It’s long, but I couldn’t turn away. Whatever happened to that band? Why did Grace McCarthy abandon her film producing career? All those hipsters burly men making union wages. Presumably the shipbuilding industry has changed over the decades, but this is what I imagine when I picture $8 billion worth of infrastructure money being spent on heavy duty industry. To use the parlance of the kings of industry, it’s a “game changer”.

The Emblematic Nature Of Your Neighbourhood’s Architecture

by Scott Daniel | The City is inviting Vancouverites to submit ideas for neighbourhood emblems. Or, to use the intensely urban verbiage the current council is known for, they want you to “Tag Your Hood“. This is all well and good, but when you travel east to west through this “city of neighbourhoods,” it seems there are already some pretty distinct architectural emblems that leave no doubt as to where you are…

Shaughnessy: Rounded Mansard Roof

I’d never noticed these peculiar roof adornments before…if you cycle the Cypress/Angus St. bike route through Shaughnessy, they’re everywhere. An understated, elegant type of opulence. Just like, I imagine, the residents of this neighbourhood perceive themselves. And they let in some light to refract through the chandeliers. Duh.

Kits: Put a Peak On It!

According to Exploring Vancouver, Kitsilano developed as a, “less expensive suburban alternative to the West End…with gabled roofs picturesque and not boring.”

In the 90′s, builders who wanted/needed their developments to conform to the neighbourhood character went overboard. They ran with the Put.A.Peak.On.It! approach. Some of them do fit, but more often than not the peaks add a lot of visual clutter and almost distract from the picturesque bungalow next door.

South Granville: A Cozy Pile of Bricks

South Granville has a bunch of warm brick apartment blocks. You can imagine the unique smell of the corridors even from outside. I always wanted to live in one, but at the same time, what’s with the No Balconies policy that they all seem to have? I know the weather can suck here, but gimme at least a juliet or something!

Fairview: Post-Tarp Pastel

The leaky condo craze that swept the city seemed to impact Fairview more than anywhere else. It’s said people would live and die by the phrase, “tarpé diem.” Now that the tarps are gone, we can re-join the 90′s nostalgia fetish that seems to be taking over at Urban Outfitters.

Yaletown: Shoebox City

People will pay almost any price to live in a shoebox if it’s close to the beautiful, the creative, the professional-hockey playing set. And it used to be the place to be!

The West End: Deco Apartments

Photo by Crankspanker

The West End is teeming with great examples of Art Deco apartment design. The colourful adornments, curved facades, chrome stoops, and focus on all that is horizontal make it a great place to walk and admire on your way to the pitch-n-putt.

Strathcona: Artist in Residence

The annual Culture Crawl invites Vancouverites to walk among the bohemian residents of Strathcona in their expressive habitats. Ancient grains soaking in the kitchen, surrealist sculptures in the workshop. All in a community-oriented, working class neighbourhood close to downtown.

East Van: Special

East Vancouver is experiencing a renaissance, and that’s a good thing. Stuff like This Is East Van and The revitalised Waldorf (and a million things besides) point to a fresh, vibrant art scene. But it can also get kind of annoying, what with all the sanctimonious East-Van-is-so-much-more-”real”-than-wherever-you-live chatter. Still, there are worse things than sanctimony.

What is more iconic than the East Van Special? Modern. Utilitarian. Real. Designers are starting to do some really interesting things with them. It’s such a great emblem…heck, there’s even an East Van Specials hockey team! And I can assure you, most of the players are quite sanctimonious.

CITY BRIEFS: Vancouver Social Housing To See Big Lift (Finally) This Year

by Scott Daniel | The average price for a home in Vancouver is now $1 million and it’s no secret that finding a place to live is the number one preoccupation in this town. Obviously it’s an even bigger issue for people who don’t have an income or aren’t in a position to pay rent, let alone a mortgage. A dearth of social housing has plagued this city as the 3 levels of government spent the better part of two decades bickering over whose responsibility it is to pay for it.

The tide has turned, however, and the City, province, and a well-funded private organization – Streetohome – are marching ahead with ambitious plans to build and fund 1,575 new supportive housing units, 570 of which are expected to be open by the end of 2011.  The new housing has the potential to change the social landscape as well as the city’s built environment.  This is not your parents’ social housing.  It looks as if we’re finally turning the page on large, de-personalized tenement estates built on cheap tracts of land. The new projects are spread out across the city, built with relatively high quality materials, and are planned to avoid the ghettoizing effects that have been synonymous with public housing projects in the past. Read more