So you’ve probably heard about the latest flap in the Downtown Eastside about the opening of an upscale restaurant and how it was targeted by protesters.
The restaurant is PiDGin at Hastings and Carrall streets — a location known more for the neighbouring Pidgeon Park, drugs and alcoholism than a foie gras dish for $20.
The protesters include Ivan Drury of the Carnegie Community Action Project and friends Wendy Pedersen, Rob Morgan and Rider Cooey.
They’re worried about gentrification.
But should they be upset as once-derelict strips of the East Hastings corridor begin to show some business life again?
It’s a lightning rod of a question.
But who better to respond than Mayor Gregor Robertson. I caught up with him last week and asked what city council’s vision was for the Downtown Eastside.
“Vancouver is all about inclusion — people of all different backgrounds and cultures living together and getting along,” he said. “It’s tough when there’s big change. In the Downtown Eastside, we’re seeing more investment and social housing and improved [single-room-occupancy hotels], as well as more investment with new businesses like the PiDGin restaurant.”
And, he continued, there’re “challenges with that.”
Then he borrowed from the late Rodney King in saying “I’m hopeful people will get along.” He then reverted to Gregorese to complete his sentence: “and we strike a balance overall investing in a neighbourhood that didn’t see much investment for many years and, at the same time, accepting that they’re going to be people of all different stripes part of this neighbourhood, as there always have been.”
Robertson wouldn’t say if he would eat at PiDGin — “I haven’t seen the menu” — but supports the business in what he said was a competitive market for restaurants.
“I wish them all the best. It’s tough to see them having to deal — as a new business — with people harassing them and I’m hopeful that we get beyond this.”
The day after I spoke to Robertson, Drury and friends released the Carnegie Community Action Project 2012 hotel survey and housing report.
Don’t have space to get into it here but the introduction of the report begins: “The Downtown Eastside housing crisis got worse in 2012. Not only were there about 850 homeless people in the neighbourhood, up from about 700 last year, at least 426 rooms went from being affordable to being unaffordable to people on welfare, disability and basic pension.”
Bring on the letters to the editor.