December 2012

Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on December 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

We've all heard certain stereotypes used to describe Vancouver before (Vancouverites = yoga-fanatic, organic juice-guzzlers). But as is the nature of cliches, while they may contain a kernel of truth, they also ignore a deeply layered lived experience that is not so easily summed up in buzzwords and cute expressions. In MOVments this week we're looking at the city through the lens of a few well-worn adages and in the process deconstructing and complicating some of our civic assumptions.

(Heritage) Home is Where the Heart Is. This story from the Vancouver Sun about the relationship between heritage buildings and densification got us thinking about the notion of "home" and our historically-rooted aesthetic expectations. As the article suggests, in a city that is constantly changing, Vancouverites are being forced to reevaluate what the "quintessential Canadian home" will look like in the future. It also poses an interesting idea from local historian John Atkin: while there seems to be an "inherent" cultural beauty to heritage houses, given time, Atkin believes that our contemporary glass towers will also take on a similar emotional and nostalgic resonance.
The More Things Change..."Housing costs are high, but we can't afford to throw up our hands and say we can't afford to build many more houses until costs come down again. In a city growing as fast as ours this would be the counsel of stupidity and despair. We must have more homes and we must have them at prices people can afford to pay." Sound familiar? It was pulled from a Vancouver Sun article from 1958. The Tyee reflects on the findings of the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, putting them into historical context for us in this little article from a few weeks back. Nothing like some good old-fashioned archival research to shed some light on contemporary issues. Great read!
Beggars Can't Be Choosers. Chances are you've heard of Mark Brand's sandwich token program at Save-On-Meats. And chances are if you know about it, you also know that it's been surrounded by controversy from the get go. The Mainlander laid down some harsh criticism of the project that encourages restaurant goers to purchase meal tokens for panhandlers in the area, in this recent article. Peter Driftmier argues that the program's basic conceit ("beggars can't be choosers") is based on an assumption that the homeless cannot be trusted to make "appropriate" purchases with money given to them. He says,"Instead of playing into stereotypes about poor people and tokenizing the poor, it’s best to trust and empower all residents to make the best food choices possible for themselves and their families." Stephen Quinn further complicates the story in his piece for the Globe and Mail where he provides a more nuanced perspective on Brand's social enterprise but also ponders the efficacy of treating the symptoms of poverty rather than the causes.
At the MOVeum:
January 17 - Built City@MOV
[Image: English Bay, c. 1937. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-569
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on December 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm

This week's MOVments is all about the bottom line: money, moola, coin. Well, not exactly. After all, when is business ever really just about business? News of W2's near-eviction from the Woodward's building, TransLink money problems, and falling housing prices, has us thinking about the social and political change that necessarily accompanies fiscal shifts (and vice versa) in our fair city. 

W2.0 After receiving an eviction notice for November 23, W2 Community Media Arts Society has been given a 90-day stay by the City of Vancouver so that it can restructure its finances. Megaphone quotes Councillor Kerry Jang for their article on the situation: “It [W2 Media Café] wasn’t making any money,” said Jang. “The business model that was there clearly wasn’t working. That’s what our city staff and everyone are trying to figure out now: how to reinvent the space, how to reuse the space in order to make a go of it.” But as the comment section for the article suggests, W2's brand of social development may not fit so neatly into a conventionally profitable business model. Problematic? Sure, but it sounds like Mayor Gregor Robertson is supporting the organization in exploring some creative possibilities for a sustainable business plan, at least for the time being. For a thorough exploration of the complex relationship between the city and W2, check out this Globe and Mail article.
Mo' Transit, Mo' Problems? In response to the new proposal for a subway system along the Broadway corridor, Pete McMartin has written a rather existential piece for the Vancouver Sun. In it, he poses a couple of philosophical questions about the meaning of, well, TransLink; he asks "Is [TransLink] an agent of change or reactive to change? Does it create cityscape or service it? Most important, in this time when the effects of global warming are making themselves apparent, is it an environmental agency or merely a people mover?" McMartin argues that we need to start answering these questions in order to move away from car-based transportation infrastructure. He also suggests that the Fraser Valley region should take priority over Broadway for rapid transit given the sheer number of vehicles moving from this area to Vancouver everyday. Your thoughts and feelings?
Chilly Housing Market. It appears that just as we head into some more wintery weather, the housing market in the Lower Mainland is cooling off as well. As the Vancouver Sun reports "the number of home sales dropped to 10-year lows in the Vancouver area and average sale prices dipped across the region." Some of us don't need to be told that there could be benefits to a drop in housing prices, but the Vancouver Sun makes it official, reporting that while a further drop in prices will hurt some, it would also boost the economy by encouraging movement to BC by both retirees and first-time homeowners. As with other economic trends only time will tell where these falling prices will take us but we will be keeping a close eye on the developments.
At the MOVeum:
January 17 - Built City: Reinvest
[Image: W2 Woodward's, Perel Gallery. Photo by Kris Krug]
Posted by: Anna Wilkinson on December 4, 2012 at 6:58 am

This week in MOVments we celebrate the season of colds, flus, and general respiratory discomfort with a selection of news related to that ever-annoying winter symptom: congestion. Whether implementing tools to relieve overcrowded transit systems, promoting creative congregations in public space, or consolidating civic institutions the issues are the same; the city is challenging itself to bring people together while facilitating their fast and efficient movement through space.

Port Mann Progress. Landmark progress has been made in speedy inter-urban travel with the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge on Saturday, December 1. But while the eight new lanes look like they're providing faster commute times for many, ongoing construction on the westside of the bridge continues to cause considerable delays for others. Another minor glitch? An express bus, the first public transit to cross the bridge in over two decades, currently only has stops in Langley and New Westminster, leaving Surrey out of the loop. This understandably has some Surrey residents bent out of shape, not the least of whom is Mayor Dianne Watts who is pushing for a Surrey stop in place of upgrades to an existing exchange hub.

Billion Dollar Ride on Broadway. In other transit news, the city has unveiled a proposal for a subway system along what is currently the busiest bus route in North America, the 99 B-Line. As the Vancouver Sun reports, the seemingly endless line ups associated with the 99 could be a thing of the past if funding can be found for the 2.8 billion dollar project. With the memory of the Canada Line construction in mind, city officials are hoping that by running the proposed system underground problems such as restrictions on turning and loss of trees and parking along the corridor could be effectively avoided.

Block 51 Revisited. Last week we were lamenting the proposed reopening of Block 51 to traffic and with it, the loss of a dynamic, innovative place for Vancouverites to congregate in the downtown core. As the Vancouver Public Space Network reported recently, Vancouver City Council has confirmed that it will allow traffic through the block again until a more comprehensive plan can be made. As the article points out, it's hard to ignore the results of a recent survey that showed tremendous public support for a permanent public square in area. The city seems to be committed to conducting research on the best solutions to traffic problems related to permanently closing the block, with city staff agreeing to report back to Council with findings before summer 2013. Fingers crossed.

Number Crunching. For any of you who wanted detailed numbers on how many staff the city employs (or for that matter, how many old mattresses city garbage workers picked up last year), you've finally got your chance. The city has just released a 177-page budget that offers a wealth of information regarding services, income, and expenditures. Notable for the heritage-minded, the document contains a money-saving proposal for consolidating the historical photographs in the City Archives and Vancouver Public Library's collections into one location. As Frances Bula reports, "The city is reviewing the overlap between the two collections and looking at whether some or all of the archives, possibly the photographs, could be moved to the central [library] branch."

At the MOVeum:

December 6 - Curator's Talk & Tour with Viviane Gosselin
December 8 - Love You Forever Tattoo Parlour
January 25 - Vancouver I Love You But...

[Image: UBC bus stop. Photo courtesy of Tony Chang]