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Rain hasn’t washed away all the colours of fall

Fwoosh! A tree spontaneously bursting into autumn on 12th Avenue.

While the sun was still out on Friday, October 13th, I managed to take a few choice photographs of autumn along 12th Avenue in the Fairview neighbourhood.

Frozen four-alarm fire rising nine storeys up the west face of the Windermere Care Centre at 900 West 12th Ave.

Vancouver’s now sodden, grey skies certainly make everything seem drab and dingy but not to worry. This week’s heavy rain can’t possible have washed the vibrant colours of last week down the drain.

Read more…

The new Santa Fe development may not be all it’s cracked up to be

The main entrance of 2975 Oak St. looks bad from a distance but it’s worse the closer you get.

Developer Francesco Aquilini’s Santa Fe apartment tower at 2975 Oak Street has only been finished for a handful of months now. The brand new property, located on the northwest corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue, should look quite impeccable.

But it doesn’t. The massive concrete steps of the main entrance way, for example—one of the first things a prospective tenant will seeare already cracked through in many places and some of the worst cracks show rusty stains suggestive of rain water reaching exposed rebar.

Looking straight down on one crack in a step riser, showing what may be rust seepage from wet rebar.

The sidewalks on the south and east sides of the building are also cracking.

The only excuse for this, that I can think of, is that both the steps and the sidewalks were already finished in November of last year and therefore had to suffer much freezing and thawing over the unusually harsh winter of 2016-2017.

Whether unfortunate timing alone accounts for this cracking or if poor quality materials and/or work played a role, I am not qualified to judge.

I will hazard to say that by November of 2016, there was some incentive to make up for lost time. The new Santa Few was scheduled to open in seven or eight months—during the summer of 2017. However, a friend of mine, who had a position of some authority on the project, was telling me at the time that the project was months behind schedule. As I noted on November 28, 2016:

“The concrete skeleton of the new tower on the northwest corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue has long since risen to its full height of 11 storeys. And now, after a delay of several months (to iron out the kinks of installing and water-proofing the new Texas-sourced window system) the glass, steel and aluminum curtain wall of the building is also almost completely installed.”

The Santa Fe is located squarely in the footprint of the area where I bin for returnable beverage containers so it’s been easy to keep track of construction developments such as the felling of trees, or the pouring of concrete. Read more…

Face-to-face with a happy construction site in the 600 block of West Broadway

The east face of 686 West Broadway Ave. seen October 15th.

Pedestrians in the 600 block of West Broadway Avenue may have noticed the white shrink wrap construction rain-screening that is covering most of the east face of the otherwise glass and aluminum-clad eight storey office building at 686 West Broadway Avenue.

It’s been poked full of…wait a minute!

Various holes have been cut into the drum-tight plastic to allow ventilation. Most of these holes are simple two-stroke X-cuts. However, those with especially keen eyesight will notice that at least two of the holes have been carefully fashioned to look like happy faces.

Funny seeing that there.

The largest and most obvious face is cut into the east face side of the plastic at the level of the sixth storey. The cuts are cleverly and cleanly done and convey an instantly recognizable mirthful expression.

My new Twitter avatar?

A second face can be seen in the plastic that wraps around onto the north side of the building, at about the level of the fourth storey. This face has big, open-cut eyes and both its nose and smile appear to have been poked into the plastic with a blunt object–perhaps a finger in a construction glove.

Detail showing a smiley face in the building wrap on the north side of 686.

Presumably these happy faces are the work of a construction worker with a sense of humour and a deft hand. I’d also like to imagine that they were also created with the intention of at least putting a smile on the face of anyone who happens to notice them.

They actually made me laugh out loud, so “Good Job” to whoever is responsible for them!

* * *

After such a nice, fluffy little post, I almost hate to mention the sad recent history of this building and I recommend that you stop reading if you are at all concerned about experiencing an instant buzz-kill.

Some people may remember 686 West Broadway from May of 2012, when an arson attempt gone wrong saw a gasoline-fed explosion rip through a ground floor retail unit occupied by the Taco Del Mar restaurant. The blast caused millions of dollars of damage to the building—not to mention serious burns to 40 percent of the body of the convicted arsonist.

It also led to the suicide of one of the two owners of the restaurant both of whom, it developed, were personal friends of the arsonist. (A judge cleared the other owner of any involvement in the arson.) Like I said, very sad. Click the images to enlarge them.

It’s a shock at first but the rain grows on you

Something of the scene in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue just after 11 a.m.

The fall season in Vancouver can come on abruptly, like a mishap.

Especially after the new fashion of our hot, dry summers, the sudden wet and cold of fall feels like an ending more than a beginning and I find that it takes some getting used to.

This morning (October 12) the curtain truly came down on an especially long run of warmth and sunshine. There were a few claps of thunder and then a heavy, grey, almost torrential, cold rain began to fall and kept falling, for a good (or bad) four hours.

The same view a few minutes earlier.

Fortunately, no one to my knowledge was injured by this sudden fall—drenched, yes, soaked to the skin, perhaps. But not actually injured.

Rain will now likely fall, more-often-than-not, for the next six or seven months. This will, I trust, give us all more than enough time to grow (like well-watered plants) to love it. Click the image to enlarge it.

Former street people run away from home to rejoin the rough life

Stix takes what life dishes out with a smile and a major beer buzz.

After some four years and four months living in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) unit in the Downtown Eastside, my friend Stix is once again homeless. Wednesday evening (October 4) he showed up on South Granville Street with a few full cloth supermarket bags and a slightly dazed look on his face.

Curiously, Stix is the fifth former homeless person that I personally know of within the last 12 months who has chosen to leave their free social housing and return to living on the street.

Stix said that he hadn’t wanted to leave the 106-year-old Holborn Hotel that he moved into in May of 2013—he described it as the best SRO on East Hastings. Only, he explained, some of the people living in his building had begun threatening his life, so he had no choice but to get out.

His story of being physically threatened by neighbours in his SRO is not as far fetched as some may think. What’s important, though, is that if Stix believed that he was in such danger he really would see no other choice but to leave the building and return to the streets; he would never go to the authorities.

To make matters worse, Stix also told me that he believes he only has a year to live—that his liver is shot and that he has bladder cancer. All very melodramatic but again plausible: he’s been a chronic alcoholic as long as I’ve known him and though he says he is only 34-years-old, he moves like a sick old man.

In his seeming despair, on Wednesday, Stix expressed a resolve to save some of the monthly provincial disability money that he receives and use it to pay for a trip, come December, back to his family in Ontario—to die, as it were.

When I asked why he wouldn’t make the trip on his next cheque, he explained that he had a November 16th court date to answer a charge of peeing in public.

After I left him Wednesday evening, Stix ended up running afoul of private security when he tried sleeping in a parkade on the north side of West Broadway Avenue. I found him Thursday morning curled up asleep in a doorway on the south side of the street.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving I watched him panhandle for a while on the median of the 1400 block of West Broadway. Afterwards he told me that he was now sleeping on a friend’s couch.

By the way, Stix says that Thanksgiving (October 9) will mark exactly six years since he arrived in Vancouver from Calgary in 2011. Read more…

Who cares that next week’s HAW schedule is still a mystery?

Another year, another Homelessness Action Week logo mark that uses a cardboard sign.—Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver region’s 12th annual Homelessness Action Week (HAW) starts in a few days—running from October the 8th until the 14th—but it is still not clear how many HAW events will be taking place this year in the city of Vancouver proper.

Over four months ago, back on May 25, the city’s General Manager of Community Services recommended that Council approve an allocation of $43,000 in grants to 17 of 29 HAW 2017 event applicants. But as of October 4th, the City of Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week page only shows a list of grant recipients for Vancouver HAW 2016.

With only four days until the start of Vancouver Homeless Action Week 2017, a link to “see all Homelessness Action Week events” still shows nothing.

We may still not know which Vancouver HAW 2017 events to expect this year but we probably shouldn’t expect it to end up costing Vancouver taxpayers any less than the estimated $43,000.

Not only did the May 25th report to Vancouver City Council recommend spending $43,000 for HAW 2017, it reminded Council that between 2009 and 2016 the city funded the previous eight Homeless Action Weeks to the combined tune of $229,450.

Vancouver HAW funding grew from $9,300 in 2009 to $36,650 in 2016.

Meaning that between 2009 and 2016, the City of Vancouver’s Homelessness Action Week funding increased 294.08 percent, while the count of homelessness in the city only increased about 12.27 percent—from 1,600-something to 1,847.

HAW funding and HAW timing are different things

It turns out that even if Vancouver City Council approved all 17 of the recommended funding applications for 2017 HAW events, that does not mean that 17 HAW events will be taking place in Vancouver between October 8th and 14th.

For example, the City of Vancouver’s May 25th HAW 2017 grant report recommended that the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society receive $2,600 of $3,000 requested, to hold a convention of tenants of privately-owned Downtown Eastside SRO Hotels, in order to educate and empower tenants. No location was shown for the proposed convention.

As I began to map the 2017 HAW event applicants, I called the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society to find out if the tenant convention was happening and, if so, where.

The woman I spoke to on the phone explained to me that yes, the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society had received funding to hold the tenant convention, but no location had been chosen yet and that the convention—though funded by Vancouver as past of Homelessness Action Week—was not expected to take place before November.

I don’t think that I’ll bother making a map. I see no reason why I should care more about documenting HAW 2017 than the City of Vancouver appears to. Read more…