The City of Vancouver has rolled out a new policy, clearing the controversial “zero” block of East Hastings of vendors.
City officials say they won’t tolerate the huge crowd that’s been congregating on the sidewalk, and have offered up a smaller space off the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
The decision is already dividing opinions, with some cheering the move and others like the Pivot Legal Society calling it displacement.
Earlier tonight, Drex hosted Georgia Straight Coordinating Editor Travis Lupick, to discuss his article on the new policy.
Street disorder in the area has been a challenge Lupick says the city has faced for more than two decades. He says the city has tried — and failed — to break it up before, most recently before the 2010 Olympics.
“This goes back to previous mayors and previous administrations, going back two decades. I think probably every administration has probably tried and failed to keep people away for the long term.”
Lupick says part of the challenge is that street vending is a job for some people living in the area. And for others, the street is part of their home.
“A lot of those people live in SROs and in the sort of low income hotels in the city, and those are not real friendly places to live because you’re in a small room without much more than a bed, so the street sort of becomes your living room, or your yard.”
He adds by clearing the block, the city isn’t really addressing the problem.
“All we did was sort of shuffle things around.”
They’ve now been moved to a smaller space across the street, along with the regular Sunday market site, and a second, less popular site on offer on Powell street.
Lupick says there are about 200 street vendors, and there’s no doubt they’ve now got less space to work with.
The question is “why now?”
Lupick says part of it is that with construction underway on the block, it’s given the city an opening to act, and clear people out.
“Because they have an opportunity to say the sidewalk is going to be crowded for a while, while that’s happening here’s a chance to move in and clean up an eyesore.”
He says the Pivot Legal Society is certainly using the language of gentrification, calling the city’s action a displacement of low income people.
“What some people will tell you is the real reason ‘why now’ is that we’re seeing some market rate condos come up in that area. That’s happening one block away.”
— travis lupick (@tlupick) November 18, 2015
Will it stick?
The real question is, how long can the city keep the block clear?
Lupick says while previous administrations have failed to impose order on the block, things may be changing.
He says the city plans to keep the policy in place for several months and the VPD is allocating extra officers to the area.
“This is a group of really marginalized people, a lot of them have had bad run ins with police in the past. It doesn’t take much to get them to stay away from an area. I think all you’ve got to do is put two police officers drinking coffee on each corner.”
He says he’s spoken to locals, and while there have been a lot of grumbles, most of them are trying to make the best of a bad situation.
But more than that, he says the area is changing. He says less than a decade ago, the 100 block of West Hastings was nothing but boarded up buildings. Now, it’s posh restaurants.
“So we’re just seeing it happen block by block.”