Beyond the highly publicized and debated issues that pertain to Vancouver’s visual and physical space, mainly focused on the much publicized Downtown Eastside, there is a competition for sonic space that has gone largely unnoticed. Noise Pollution caused by the rapid development of condominiums dominates Vancouver’s soundscape, while the relatively minor sound intrusions of live music — in the streets, in public venues, or private spaces — is regularly restricted by city officials. This discrepancy exists largely as a result of Vancouver’s Noise Control by-law, which has a strong bias towards developer-friendly regulations, and shrouds musical/cultural sound policy in a cloud of ambiguity, hyper-regulation and selective enforcement.
In the spring of 2012, the City of Vancouver’s engineering department passed a revealing by-law. It stated that no longer could bagpipes or percussion instruments be played in the streets of the city. The engineering department claimed to have based their decision on “noise concerns”, but whether or not they were conscious of it, their disruption of legitimate street music was actually ideologically motivated. There is a trend in Vancouver toward anti-cultural and pro-developer policies concerning noise.
Low income residents taking the street at a Rally against Displacement and Gentrification on June 14th
Photo credit: p0stcap
Last week the City of Vancouver released its draft report of the Local Area Plan for the Downtown Eastside. Reviews of the report have been mixed. While the city’s planning director Kevin McNaney calls it “innovative, aggressive and achievable,” the Carnegie Community Action Project characterized the draft report as “a recipe for displacement.” What exactly is promised in the city’s brand new 10-year plan for the DTES?
First, the good news: the plan admits that gentrification is taking place, that it displaces low-income residents, and that this displacement has negative social impacts. These acknowledgements mark a change of position for the City and can be attributed entirely to the anti-gentrification struggle of DTES residents.
Last week, Pidgin co-owner Brandon Grossutti stole the satirical mascot known as “the People’s Pickle” from the protest picket outside his restaurant. According to one witness, picket organizer Kim Hearty attempted to retrieve the mascot from the back of the restaurant when Grossutti physically assaulted the community organizer.
Grossutti then relayed his own version of events to the Vancouver Police Department. Based on his allegations, on Monday of this week the VPD arrested Kim Hearty outside her home in East Van. After being held in jail, Hearty was released on condition that she not go within a two-block radius of the Pidgin picket.
Hearty is one of the main organizers of a legal picket action that the VPD have been seeking unsuccessfully to shut down for months. In April the police moved to arrest Pidgin picketers, announcing plans for an undefined number of premeditated arrests at the site of the picket. After a public outcry and strong show of support for the picket by Downtown Eastside residents, the VPD was forced to temporarily shelve their arrest plans.