Put rainbow crosswalks in the richest areas of Vancouver
Six years ago, Georgia Straight reporter Carlito Pablo wrote an intriguing article about the impact that gays and lesbians can have on housing prices.
At the time, urban theorist Richard Florida and economist Charlotta Mellander had recently written a paper suggesting that the presence of gays, artists, and bohemians increased the appeal of a neighbourhood.
This, in turn, brought others flocking to the area.
We've seen this occur in Vancouver's West End, where rising real-estate costs have made it impossible for some young gays to remain.
This week, the City of Vancouver unveiled four rainbow crosswalks costing $25,000, including landscaping and picnic tables, in the heart of the Davie Village. And this caused a litany of comments on the Georgia Straight website—some positive and some negative.
It's clear that there's a great deal of public interest in the issue. Some suggested that these crosswalks should be placed elsewhere in the city to demonstrate widespread support for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
Less than two months after Pablo's article appeared, I happened to interview Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium cofounder Jim Deva.
One of his concerns was the dispersal of gays and lesbians to the suburbs.
Deva suggested at the time that this was being caused by a lack of effective rent control in the West End combined with growing acceptance of the LGBTQ commuty in other areas of the Lower Mainland. It's why Deva wanted an LGBTQ community centre in the Davie Village.
"What drew us together was discrimination," he stated. "Now, it's got to be the social component that keeps us together because we've got to be together in order to be complete."
The creation of the rainbow crosswalks at the corner of Bute and Davie streets should be seen in this context.
The gay-oriented businesses need a boost to reinforce that this is the heart of the city's LGBT community—even as low-income gays and lesbians have, in some cases, been forced to flee to other areas, only to be replaced by higher income urban dwellers.
That's an inevitable byproduct of the presence of gays, bohemians, and artists, who all made this part of the West End so desirable in the first place. A similar phenomenon occurred along West 4th Avenue.
So the question becomes: where should other rainbow crosswalks go? And do they create a risk of driving up real-estate prices if the non-LGBT, non-artist, and non-bohemian crowd decide that this is the latest hip and happening place to live?
In light of the work of Florida and Mellander, I would suggest placing new rainbow crosswalks in some of the wealthiest areas of Greater Vancouver.
My list would include the corner of West 10th and Trimble Street in Point Grey, Belmont Avenue and Blanca Street near Spanish Banks, and at Arbutus Street and West 41st Avenue. For good measure, the District of West Vancouver should install one in the British Properties.
Keep the rainbow crosswalks away from Mount Pleasant and the Commercial Drive area, where many gays, artists, and bohemians already live.
To do otherwise just might hasten their displacement.