‘High-end Vancouver, like its high-end hockey team, has alienated working-class fans to the point of anger’, by Shefa Siegel, themarknews.com, 24 Jun 2011 [hat-tip ‘lex’]. Siegel is a Research Fellow at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment. Excerpts –
“[There exists] a dissonance between the tranquil image Vancouver exports and the lie the city has become.”
“Gregor Robertson lives in a comfortable 23rd Avenue house one block west of Oak Street. Until the mid-1980s, Oak was the division between the city’s wealthy and middle classes. Moving east from Oak to Cambie, Main, and Fraser, each major north-south street was a further step toward working-class homes, immigrants, and the rundown schools that defined Vancouver as an affordable city at the continental edge.”
“Until I was 13, I lived four houses up the hill on 23rd Avenue from where Robertson resides. We had a plum tree and raspberry bushes. There was a schoolyard across the alley where we shot hoops and practised wrist shots. We walked to school. Our friends lived in the neighbourhood. It was a good place to live.”
“Today, a single-floor postwar home on 23rd is worth a cool million. The districts across Cambie, Main, and Fraser, once avoided by puny Jewish kids who knew nothing about fists and fights, are coveted grounds for swanky young parents. Coupled with obscene food prices, living in the heart of Vancouver is no less expensive than life in Manhattan.
Were I now living in Vancouver, I would have to move further east. No matter my ordinations from the educated class, I am a data point on the downward trend where the purchasing power of middle-class offspring is exponentially lower than the income of the parents who spawned them.
Because the million-dollar range stretches past the Pacific National Exhibition and the old Canucks Coliseum, my hypothetical move east displaces still further the working classes and immigrants who once occupied these formerly grunge areas. The people upon whose backs the city – any city – hums are not part of the post- Expo ’86, Hong Kong, Whistler-Blackcomb, cannabis capitalism, cult-of-celebrity, and Olympics economic boom that make the 2011 Vancouver Canucks possible.”
“There is no undeveloped property anywhere – every nook and niche claimed by condominiums, stadia, coffee, and casinos; timbermen’s jackets replaced by adorable Lululemon asses, the costume of a leisure class with time to shape their figures; hippies gone wealthy, local festivals marketed worldwide, mountains transformed to Monte Carlo; the mines – though still economic bedrock – obscured by film crews and marijuana monopolies.”
“..the Vancouver mayor glamourizes the city as a beacon of “sustainable” urbanism. I am sorry, but sustainability has nothing to do with bike lanes to cross bridges connecting one affluent neighbourhood to another. Sustainable development is equal parts environmentalism and social justice; it is the principle that every individual, class, race, nation, and generation has equal rights to prosperity and resources – an ethics of distribution. And for the past 30 years, up to and including Robertson’s administration, Vancouver has veered away from, not toward, the ethics of sustainability.
Testifying internationally to Vancouver’s glory does not change the crisis. You cannot be a sustainable city when no working-class resident can afford to live within a 45-minute drive of the city centre..”