Sunday, May 27, 2007

paradise to purgatory

This is a great picture lifted from somewhere. The graveyard of the city.


I've had the Joni Mitchell refrain - they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot - going through my mind a lot lately.

When I first came to Vancouver, I found it to be very pleasant. It was a small city, and I well remember being on the West side in the morning and seeing someone, and seeing that same person on the East side the same afternoon. Traffic was relatively light, and the city had a kind of sleepy feel to it.

20 years later, the traffic is choked up practically 24 hours a day, development has run rampant, they have blown up the paradise of Eagle ridge bluffs and paved it, Grouse Mountain has extended at least three-fold, Vanoc has taken over half of the dictionary, and the city that I grew to love has changed oh so much for the worse.

Whose idea and/or want was this? What kind of benefit or prestige do the Olympics, and corollary development impart on the denizens of Vancouver?

The city seems smaller than it did then, just twice as busy/packed. A lot of Vancouverites have gained massive wealth on paper, but it is next to useless unless realized.

I think the answer to the question of benefit is that "rich foreigners", greedy speculators and developers have benefited. I suppose that those that arrived from choked cities elsewhere, more recently than I, still find the city small and pleasant in contrast to whence they have come. I also realize that I am a nostalgic, and a romantic fool who dislikes change, but oh, woe. I find it a shame.

I wonder how many would have voted for the Olympics if they could have seen past the stars in their eyes?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Olympics has usually cost the host cities dearly ie. debt. I am from Victoria amd people here think everyone around the world will want to come and live in Victoria because of the Olympics (we are not hosting the Olympics).

I was living in France and my husband and I decided to get married in Vancouver. He did not really know Canada but was saddened when we arrived how developers were blasting into the mountains and tacky monster houses were going up everywhere. He said he was very disappointed with Vancouver and thought it would be different. J wondered why this was being allowed to happen. That was 15 years ago.

Babybull40 said...

Developers are greedy foreigners.. They are all the same.. Money talks bullsh*t walks..Whereever you go.. I think change can be a positive thing.. but when the interests of the people are thrown aside.. that is when they(developers) see opportunity to strike where it hurts..

patriotz said...

"We have met the enemy and he is us"

Yes, it's easy to blame the foreigners, developers, etc. but in the end it's really the average person who thinks absurd RE prices and circuses like the Olympics will make him/her better off, and elects governments that promote them. And let's not forget who put in the Olympic bid.

Interesting to hear your viewpoint from 20 years ago. In the opinion of many the city had already gone downhill substantially. The turning points were the 1981 real estate mania and Expo, which really set the mentality for the next two decades.

I'm old enough to remember the 1960's, and much of the city then felt like Victoria today. Except without all the homeless, and of course without the RE idiocy which has taken over Victoria as well - but mercifully without the monster houses, at least in the central areas.

jesse said...

These days the best you can do is get up early and get outside. After 11am...

It's easy to wax nostalgic about Vancouver. Part of its charm is its ability to be idealistic, irrelevant and delusional. As long as that doesn't change, relative to other places in the world, Vancouver will always retain its charm.

Real estute said...

I'm a former downtown Vancouver west-end resident. I've witnessed the change in the past 10 years. All I can say is that the place exemplifies the expression "victim of its own success". I just can't think of a better way to describe the city these days.

Theorem said...

Lived here for 2 years, had moved from Toronto. Went to Montreal for 2 years, came back. Went overseas for 3 years, got back a few months ago. Staying here for 3 years, then leaving for 3, then coming back really helps to exagerate the changes the city undergoes.

My last move was from Zurich,a city consistantly ranked along side Vancouver as the city with the world's highest quality of life.

I must say that the changes I have seen in the past ten years are extremely obvious, they scream at you when you walk down the street and pick you up by the collar and smack you across the face when you least expect them:

- Aggressive / Ignorant / Self obsessed drivers.
- Aggressive / Ignorant / Self Obsessed Pedestrians.
- Violent tendancies in the city afterhours.
- Traffic.
- Attitudes of the average population, their shiny new SUV's, their pimped wheels.
- The need of most to flaunt the rules, put themselves above everyone and all else.
- Lululemon wearing mum's hanging out at Trimble park with their half-caf no whip extra hot vanilla soy milk latte, 1000 dollar strollers and all the subtleties and charm of anyone who has just been handed a home equity loan for half a million dollars.

There is so much to Vancouver that I absolutely love and really can't live without. But will we ever get back the 'good old days' when living in the west end didn't mean having to trip over the dealer and his customer on your front lawn regardless of your address and monthly rent? Will we ever get back the feelings we all got when we decided to move here in the first place (or our parents in some peoples cases)?

I hope so, and in many ways I really hope the inevitable plunge in real estate prices catches a lot of people with their pants down so we can all see who everyone really is.

My daily rant.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Vancouver during the 70s and early 80s. Left for Parts Yonder near the end of Expo '86 because the town felt cramped, small, and on the edge of nowhere. Over the years I'd visit, and it never really stopped feelig small, cramped and on the edge of nowhere.

But now, nearly 20 years later, after living in several genuine World Class Cities (tm), I've come back. And to my surprise, I'm not feeling the urge to leave again.

Vancouver is a long way from Manhattan - in every sense of the word - but to me it is a FAR more liveable, useful place than it was when I was growing up.

Now, with kids, I think about what the city will be like when they hit their Nomadic Years, and I can easily see them making the choice to stay rather than seek out bigger pond like I felt compelled to do.

It ain't perfect, no place is, but this is a hell of nice place to work and live. And in a world where brownstones in Harlem (in the background Elvis croons "...in the Ghetto...(in the Ghetto...)") are fetching $500/sq.ft. it's still a relatively inexpensive place to set up shop.

But I don't begrudge anyone who feels differently...

condohype said...

Vancouver is a victim of its own success. It's an appealing city. I can't blame people for wanting to come here which in turn drives up the cost of real estate. Great cities attract people. I'm not sure what all this stuff about greedy foreigners is all about. I really hope it isn't rooted in racism.

Patiently Waiting said...

I'm more concerned about our future. One word: DEBT.

I'm convinced that when the economy inevitably goes into recession, all hell is going to break loose. A huge part of our population can barely keep the wolf from the door. We've had recessions before, but people had that quaint thing called savings.

This is where the housing bubble has brought us...teetering on the edge of a cliff.

patriotz said...

Or in other words, theorem, LA with rain.

When the mayor has to put together something called a "civil city project" you know the jig is up.

Perhaps some of the egos will deflate with the RE prices when the tide turns. We will see.

wizardofozziejurock said...

condohype said:
"I'm not sure what all this stuff about greedy foreigners is all about. I really hope it isn't rooted in racism."

Just about as racist is it would be for the First Nations people to complain about European colonization.

Nothing personal condohype, but I really think you're barking up the wrong tree.

Before everyone was so obsessed with identity politics and looking for racists in every closet, there used to be a legitimate school of thought called "class politics" that seriously considered issues of fairness when it comes to wealth accumulation and redistribution, regardless of who was doing the accumulating and distributing.

Now to question the integrity of a foreign speculator -- regardless of how ill-gotten their gains -- immediately raises suspicions of racism.

Middle class Canadians are tripping all over their politically correct selves while the country gets sold out from under them.

For everyone who thinks its a level playing field in the world of global capitalism, take your cherished liberal values on a little tour of Asia and see how well they're received.

Previous generations of Canadians fought for a parliamentary democracy, a social safety net, workers' rights, women's rights, multiculturalism, etc., etc. These are all values that a system driven by profit maximization, corruption, exploitation, authoritarianism, tax avoidance etc. simply don't respect.

For generations, Canadians have feared domination by American interests (not just financial, but cultural) and still do, and created legislation to restrict it. Is that racist?

We really need to stop the sandbox politics and wake up to the realities of global economic forces that don't give a rat's ass about our quaint Canadian ways. This constant self-censorship that stops us from addressing real issues is, unfortunately, quintessentially Canadian these days.

condohype said...

Whoa. No one's accusing anyone of anything. I just don't know why the emphasis would be on greedy foreigners when the real issue seems to be international investment. Is it really about the greed of individuals or is it about a larger system? That's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

For the first time in a long time it feels like the world economy is meshed enough that when a recession hits we're all going down together (more or less). From that perspective, Vancouver will do just fine, even if it hurts a bit.

We'll still have food, water and electricity, the vast majority of people will still get up every morning and either go to work or wake the kids up, and life will go one with a few less boutiques, a few fewer morning lattes, and skinnier bank accounts thanks to skinnier HELOCs. Average age of cars on the street will go up by a year or two.

The decibel level of the whining will go up, of course.

The ones who will really suffer are the below-minimum-wage slaves overseas pumping out the Walmart crap we've all stuffed our lives with. They have no safety net and nowhere to turn with precious little between their current existence and borderline starvation.

But by and large, we'll be muddle through relatively unscathed, as we always do.

solipsist said...

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments.

"I just don't know why the emphasis would be on greedy foreigners"

I don't think there was any emphatic mention of greedy foreigners. I did mention "rich foreigners" as a snide commentary on one of the (accepted?) fallacies of what is driving Vancouver - along with the Olympics, land shortage, etc. Greedy speculators, however, stands.

It would be pretty disingenuous of me to be anti-immigration, as my wife is an immigrant, and my great-great grandparents were immigrants here in 1847.

I do have to agree with a lot of what the wizard said.

James Wong said...

It' a pity we in Vancouver are victims to some bad government policies on land use and urban planning. The policy on land use under BC's Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) is chocking off land supply for urban housing, and our zoning and building codes limiting multi-family condos to 4-storey frame building and concrete highrises have resulted in "unaffordable" house prices.

You can compare Vancouver and Toronto's condo prices, and you will see that Vancouver prices are double what anyone can buy in Toronto. Downtown Vancouver condos are showing prices between $550 to $750 per square foot whereas a home buyer can buy a new condo in downtown Toronto for $300 to $350 per square foot.

Those who buy into Vancouver's new condos are not seeing that we are already way over-priced. It was reported somewhere that our prices are 28% or more higher than the natural price rise as a result of annual inflation cost.

With property prices so high, there are not that many buyers with money to buy. The time is already here that the banks cannot find more buyers to keep the housing market going higher.

condohype said...

It's cool solipsist.

patriotz said...

From that perspective, Vancouver will do just fine, even if it hurts a bit.

I surmise that you weren't around in 1982. Hold on to your seat.

The policy on land use under BC's Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) is chocking off land supply for urban housing

This old chestnut is just "we're running out of land", BC edition. It's been used as a scapegoat for every RE runup since it was introduced in the early 1970's. Funny it didn't stop the 1981 bust from happening. The rest of the post is nonsense too.

our zoning and building codes limiting multi-family condos to 4-storey frame building and concrete highrises have resulted in "unaffordable" house prices.

And just how have those codes changed since 2001, James?

saty (yes it's me) said...

My generation were fortunate enough to have lived through the best years of Vancouver. Those days are long since gone. They began to die with Expo 86, and the pace accelerated beyond understanding when all the Olympic hype began. I was born in this city, so was my wife, and so were two of my three children. My family and I are packing up and leaving at the end of this school year. My wife (a truly outstanding high school teacher) will be sorely missed by students, their parents and her colleagues. Vancouver at its best is dead. Good-bye Vancouver.

saty (the one and only) said...

I surmise that you weren't around in 1982. Hold on to your seat.

patriotz,

Like you I expect a crash. At one time I said to myself, "self, just wait around, you can pick up something cheap in a few years." But now I've come to realize it wouldn't matter how cheap the house was, I don't want to live here anymore.

Anonymous said...

I surmise that you weren't around in 1982. Hold on to your seat.

I sure was. I gather you were too. And somehow here we both are, still standing.

Imagine that.

solipsist said...

saty - it is sad that you have lost your love for your home town. I am often glad that I am a relatively late-comer, and have not such deep roots here. I loved this city until the Olympics crap started, but like you, I am kind of burnt out from it - even if prices do become ridiculously cheap. I really liked Van. as a "backwater".

patriotz said...

I sure was. I gather you were too. And somehow here we both are, still standing.

Yes, but the point is for a couple of years, the city looked like Beiruit, which is not my idea of "hurting a bit".

And I have to agree with saty - the last time Vancouver was really "worth it" price-wise was in the middle 1980's - and it's gone downhill so far in the things that matter to me that even a return to the real prices of those days would not be enough to get me to buy.

Anonymous said...

"What kind of benefit or prestige do the Olympics, and corollary development impart on the denizens of Vancouver?" I worry about my daughters 21 and 19 who have never seen a recession. Right now its easy to get $12 an hour jobs and jump jobs on a whim. They will likely leave this city when they are older, if it does not become more affordable, and that makes me sad. I have lived in Vancouver proper since January 1957(birth).

Midlife Traveller said...

...the city looked like Beiruit...

You don't help your cause with that kind of nonsensical hyperbole.

solipsist said...

...the city looked like Beiruit...

You don't help your cause with that kind of nonsensical hyperbole.
.

But the city did look like Beirut when I arrived in '88. Part of it's charm IMHO.