Saturday, November 26, 2016

The deplorable state of streets and lanes in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Last night, on CBC's The National, there was a story on the dramatic increase in fentanyl-related drug overdoses across Canada, but especially in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The situation is both horrifying and tragic and one can only hope that some solutions can be found before many more people die.

I was also struck by images of the physical condition of a DTES lane shown at minute 6:42 of The National broadcast.

I suspect it was quite horrifying to many Canadians, but probably not to most Vancouverites. Sadly, we seem to have become unfathomably complacent about the state of DTES streets and lanes.

As I watched, I wondered if our mayor and members of Council were watching; and if so, were they as ashamed and disgusted as I was at how our city appeared on the newscast.

I have complained in the past about the appearance of DTES streets in the Huffington Post, The National Post and Vancouver Courier
Often I have been criticized for worrying about the condition of the streets rather than doing something about the lives of the people who live there.

I care about the lives of the people on the streets, and while I spent a year volunteering as a founding director of the Building Community Society, regrettably I do not feel I can do much about this, other than pay taxes to support health care and other needed services.

However, as an architect and planner, I would like to think that I can help improve the physical appearance of the lanes and streets. We need to do this because I believe that in some small way, the deplorable condition of the streets contributes somewhat to the deplorable lives of the people who roam them. I also think it is essential that we 'normalize' to the extent possible, this outlier part of the city.

So please, Mayor Robertson and Council, City Manager Sadhu Johnston and Director of Planning Gil Kelley, I call upon you to lead a concerted effort involving all city departments and the general public, to improve the streets and lanes of the DTES.

Let's bring out the street cleaners, artists, painters, and landscapers and do whatever it takes to regain control of this now derelict part of our city.

For those readers who may not understand what I am writing about, below are just a few of the images off the internet offering a glimpse of the neighbourhood.

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