Monday, July 16, 2012

Vancouver as No Fun City: Is Liquor a Cultural Lubricant?

Check out my post on Urban Studies!

Vancouver is often called the City of Glass. While it is a title bestowed upon it mostly based on the city’s prominent slender glass condominium towers, it also alludes to the way in which municipal and provincial regulations enforce the idea that it is also a fragile city. This conservative attitude towards urban living is translated on the street-level as “No Fun City”. Indeed, this idea plays a significant part in Vancouver’s cultural narrative.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dialogue Notes

Last week I was on a community dialogue panel along with Faye Wightman, President and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation, and Paula Carr, Community Strategist at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Each of us gave a 5 minute 'presentation' from our own perspectives relating to social connections and the Vancouver Foundation's recent report which found that a lot of us in Metro Vancouver feel lonely or isolated.

I talked about my experience with #space98 and how I came to realize (after visiting Portland) that sometimes we are the one's we're waiting for - that is, don't wait for someone else or the City to do that thing you wanted to do. It seems our region has a lack of self-esteem. The report found that:
Many people in metro Vancouver are retreating from community life. In the past year, most of us have not participated in neighbourhood and community activities. It isn’t a lack of time that stops people from getting involved. The most often-cited reason for not participating in neighbourhood and community life is a feeling that we have little to offer.
I found this disturbing since we should all have things we can contribute. I then went on then about the intergenerational divide:
Young people are most likely to feel that the two generations are not making enough of an effort to connect. 51% of those aged 18 to 34 agree that the two generations do not make an effort to get to know and understand each other. 30% of people over 65 agree with this statement.
I suppose I would be part of that 51% had they asked me. I recalled my experience with an 'intergenerational dialogue' where I ended up in a room full of people my age and I could count the older people on one hand. At this dialogue it was the opposite. How can we get together in one room?

After we had done that we got to answer questions from the participants/audience. Some things that came up for me:

  • We can design buildings that cover 2 of the 3 pillars of sustainability. It's hard to measure happiness...there's no LEED standard for happiness. 
  • We now design buildings to be as anti-social as possible: condo buildings where you can only go to your floor (a 'security' measure), we don't like kids hanging around alleys so we put up gates, etc. 
  • There are ways to circumvent anti-social design: have a floor pot-luck, gather in the common spaces - don't be scared off that you might fail. 
  • They're called apartments for a reason...can we build togetherments?
  • Federal funding cuts are hurting many programs that try to build community networks.
  • If you're in a car dependent suburb,  you know your neighbour's car before you know your neighbour: you see them go from the garage to the car in the morning and from their car to their garage in the evening - no room for interaction. 
  • Dogs are great ways to meet people: people will stop to pet them and talk with you and you can bring them to the dog park. However, hard to find apartments that allow pets these days. 
  • Be the first to ask your neighbour to borrow some milk or sugar. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dialogue: Building Community - Social Connections Matter

Hey all,

Tomorrow, I'll be a panelist for Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Foundation's dialogue event in Richmond (easily accessible by Canada Line). Here's the deets:

July 04, 2012 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM (lunch from 11:30 am - 12:00 pm)
Richmond Cultural Centre
180-7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond
By many accounts the Metro Vancouver region is on the fast track to sustainability, renowned for being “green”, embracing diversity and scoring high in terms of livability. But new research by the Vancouver Foundation suggests that people in the region may be feeling a sense of isolation – a lack of connection to their neighbours, to their community and by extension to their city and region – a finding that has the potential to undermine even the best sustainability efforts. What factors are contributing to this trend - our planning approaches and patterns of growth? Our growing population, or increasingly multicultural population? The transition to a digital age? Other factors yet to be determined? How do we address this divide and build social connections that foster strong and healthy communities? What examples of cohesive communities can we learn from moving forward?

Opening/Closing Remarks: Malcolm Brodie, Director, Metro Vancouver, and Mayor, City of Richmond

Facilitator: Peter Holt

  • Faye Wightman, President and CEO, Vancouver Foundation 
  • Paula Carr, Community Strategist, Intercultural Neighbourhood Development, Collingwood Neighbourhood House
  • Brandon Yan, Vancouver Public Space Network
For the Vancouver Foundation Report, click here.