March’s featured storyteller is Kevin Dale McKeown, editor and publisher of The West End Journal.

As part of his “People’s Park” story, Kevin recalls the spring of 1971 when Vancouver’s Yippie movement occupied and built a tent city on the proposed site of a new Four Seasons Hotel at the entrance to Stanley Park – where Devonian Harbour Park is today.

Kevin was in the thick of the action, helping out at the camp kitchen. The protest lasted a year, Mayor Tom Campbell called it “a breakdown of society”, and obviously the campers / protesters won the battle.

Today the main attraction at the site is not a glitzy international hotel but the bronze statue of a woman sitting on a park bench, apparently searching in her purse for the glasses we can all see sitting atop her head. But things could have gone differently.

 

JJ Bean Cafe, 1209 Bidwell Street (Bidwell & Davie)

Wednesday, March 20

4:30 to 6:00 pm

Admission: Free, Complimentary coffee and tea thanks to JJ Bean

Comments

  1. Actually the original proposal was 15 towers of guaranteed rental for 3,200 residents. Towers from 15 to 30 stories. There would have also been a 13 story hotel near the entrance to the park. Critics didn’t mention the apartment rental and focussed on the smaller so-called ‘luxury’ hotel. Instead Council spent $30 million in today’s money to turn this into a park. This depleted 5 years of park aquisition money which would have been used for park deficient east side neighbourhoods instead creating an additional park beside the 100,000 acre Stanley Park. Gerald Sutton-Brown believed we could convert waterfront industrial land into high density towers to provide quality homes and keep down the price of housing. This would have been years ahead of the rest of the world. TEAM opposed this and fired him. They implemented their vision in South False Creek which had lower densities than a typical single detached house neighbourhood. It would be almost two decades before Coal Harbour, Concord Pacific and City Gate would revive Sutton-Brown’s vision.

    TEAM went on to oppose townhouses in single house neighbourhoods(Shannon Mews),tried to end the Vancouver Special by removing the basement exemption, end any approval of residential towers for over a decade and introduce processes that have succeeded in preventing the densification of RS neighbourhoods

    When I was in elementary school our teacher took us on a tour of Peoples’ Park and met the protesters. It all seemed quite wonderful. But in light of what has happened to the price of housing since we lost Sutton-Brown, I think of the apt symbolism of what happened to the city vision, looking in our purse for what was on our head.

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