By Karen Ward
You’ve seen them: the hipsters, walking down our streets and having expensive fancy coffees at the gentrifying shops along the west side of the DTES, like “Nelson the Seagull” and the shop below the Rainer Hotel. The $3 donuts at Cartem are for them; the $7 beers at the Bitter tasting room are for them. They have tight pants, big fake glasses, and over-styled facial hair. They walk around with cameras that would pay my rent for four months and want to take pictures of the neighbourhood for their silly-ass art projects. They think they’re being adventurous and edgy when they walk past Pigeon Park.
Many of these hipsters arrived when SFU arrived at Woodward’s, many are film students from Vancouver Film School, and many moved here because it’s affordable – for them – and they think it’s cool, so they’re taking over. They’re the front line of gentrification: new businesses like Pidgin want to serve them and SROs that evict everyone and re-open as “micro-lofts” want them as tenants. City Council wants to give them bike lanes while they take away our homes.
Hipsters treat the neighbourhood as their playground or campus, and we low-income people are the background decoration. These are very privileged middle-class kids who basically think that they’re so damn cool so they couldn’t possibly have a negative influence – at least for them. The world is theirs.
Down here by Woodward’s, you can see it in every step they take. They walk alongside each other, literally pushing you off the sidewalk. They just can’t get enough of the awesomeness of Save-on-Meats. And when Marc Williams, the developer of the Pantages project, talks about “affordable home ownership,” he’s talking to them.
This pattern has repeated itself in virtually every low-income, “revitalized” neighbourhood in North America. Cool, artsy people move in, the place becomes cool and property values rise, displacing low-income communities. It’s everything: higher land values, higher rents, evictions, trendy high-end businesses, and the invasion of low-income communities, block by block. It’s at Carrall Street now, and that’s the reason people are protesting Pidgin. They are saying, “That’s Enough – Gentrification Stops Here. And no, it’s NOT cool.”