G-W Portraits: Trudy Ann Tellis

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I was lucky enough to share a cup (okay, more than one cup) of tea with Trudy Ann Tellis of Trudy Ann’s Chai last weekend. She’s one of my neighbours and she’s also one of the people who work hard to help create and maintain the kind of community Grandview-Woodland is famous for.

We talked about tea and spices, music, potlucks, and all the things she loves about this neighbourhood.

Here’s a list of the organizations, people, and places Trudy Ann mentions in the video:

Pets and Friends

Whitridge Brothers

Drive Street Band

55+ Centre

Vancouver Farmers’ Markets

East End Food Co-op

Andy’s Bakery

Britannia Craft Fair

Britannia Community Centre

Napier Greenway

These are just a few of the ways Grandview-Woodland builds community. I’m looking forward to discovering more with you as this series continues.

Thanks to Trudy Ann (and Coco) for a great interview!

G-W Portraits: Jak King

I’m starting a new series that will appear on the blog from time to time. It’s called G-W Portraits and it celebrates the citizens of my neighbourhood, Grandview-Woodland. We’ve got a diverse cast of characters in this part of Vancouver, so you can expect to meet activists, food lovers, artists, musicians, families of all configurations, and more.

I’m asking three questions: Who are you? What are you doing (as a practice, job, vocation, hobby, or right this minute)? What do you love about Grandview-Woodland?

I’m excited to share the stories of the people in my neighbourhood with you. To kick things off, I’ve got a short interview with long-time G-W resident, Jak King – a historian and neighbourhood activist.

I’m using Periscope as a platform for this series, so you can catch it live on Twitter and join in a conversation during the broadcast. I’ll start giving a heads up tweet a few minutes before each one to facilitate that. Afterward, I’ll upload the videos to YouTube, then share them on the blog.

I expect the first ones will be a little rough around the edges, as I get used to using my phone as a video camera, so bear with me.

Spoiled For Choice

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The neighbourhood I live in is in transition. There’s a threat of tall buildings and generic chain stores on the horizon. So, today I thought I’d focus on some of the businesses that make my neighbourhood great.

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Food

This is a good place to start, because I just found out that Bosa Foods is taking over the space at Commercial and Parker that Dream Designs left behind. Bosa has been tucked away at the corner of Victoria and Turner since 1957, but the family is redeveloping the block and will be reopening with a bigger space. In the meantime, it’s good to keep them close to their original location and great to learn that an empty storefront will be filled by a business with roots in this community. It looks like the restaurant space beside it is ready to take on a new incarnation, too. If it becomes a sit down Italian deli, the neighbourhood will be in heaven.

Our first stop for groceries is always East End Food Co-op. They concentrate on organic and fair trade products as much as they can, while also trying to support local farmers in the produce aisle.

Donald’s is another of our stops, though less frequently, as both of their locations are on the outer edges of our neighbourhood. They’ve become famous for their produce and prices, while stocking a wide variety of organic and special diet products.

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There are also too many fresh markets along Commercial and East Hastings to list here. I can find just about any produce, spice, or condiment I can think of – which came in really handy for tracking down French Fridays ingredients.

And there are more and more great delis, butchers, and fishmongers in the neighbourhood. Some are longtime favourites, like Bosa, while others are welcome newcomers.

La Grotta del Formaggio has cheese, deli meats, and incredible sandwiches.

If I’m looking for meat, I can go to Pasture to Plate for organic beef, chicken, pork or turkey. If I’m searching for something farther afield, I check Rio Friendly Meats or Windsor Meat Co.

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And then, there’s Gourmet Warehouse. It’s a dangerous place to be if you like to cook. South China Seas is smaller, but just as dangerous.

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Things

Let’s start with Tiny Finery. They stock beautifully crafted local goods – jewellery, letterpress cards, ceramics, bath products. I especially love that they promote the artists and makers they buy from, both in store and on their website.

Doctor Vigari has furnished our home with many pieces of art over the years. They have a collection of art and jewellery that’s carefully curated and eclectic. It’s good that they moved a little farther down the Drive from us, so that we can better avoid impulse purchases.

LaLa’s does retro and kitch, but it’s mixed liberally with chic.

The Found and the Freed casts a wider net than most antique stores. There’s nothing stodgy about the goods they collect.

There are two yarn stores in the neighbourhood, which makes me happy: Baaad Anna’s and Wool Is Not Enough. I’m on a yarn diet, but I know if I want to break that fast I can find what I need at one or the other of these stores. You’ll want to visit both, because they stock quite different (but equally fine) yarns.

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Books, Records, Video

Yup, you read that right. My neighbourhood still has book, record, and video stores.

Audiopile and Highlife Records are both going strong on the Drive, while newcomer Horses Records and Books is carving out its own niche on East Hastings.

I don’t like to brag, but we have so many bookstores in the neighbourhood that I’m only going to tell you about my favourites. People’s Co-op Bookstore is as much a community space as it is a bookstore. Pulp Fiction has a carefully chosen mix of new and used books – whether you’re into pulp and sci fi or the most literate of new books, you’ll be happy here. Canterbury Tales has a solid selection of used books, with a few new ones, too.

And we can’t forget Black Dog Video. The video rental business is a hard one these days, but it’s so nice to have a video store in the neighbourhood that has a broad catalogue. I’m not ready to give up my viewing choices to streaming services exclusively. There’s too much to see that would get left out.

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It’s becoming clear to me that I need to do a neighbourhood series. We’ve had coffee and, now, retail. How about bakeries next? Restaurants are a huge category around here – that would be more than one post. Definitely one on the breweries and distilleries in the neighbourhood. What else? Let me know in the comments.

Eastside Coffee Culture

A friend and neighbour of mine likes to text me when she’s in the mood for a cup of coffee. She knows I like to explore the neighbourhood’s cafés as much as she does and we both work on flexible schedules. So, once or twice a month, we head out for coffee and treats. Our neighbourhood is at the intersection of Grandview-Woodland and Hastings-Sunrise (also known as Vancouver East Village, by some). As I’ve mentioned before, there are strong Italian and Portuguese roots in the area, so there’s been a long history of coffee shops in this neighbourhood, especially along Commercial Drive.

There are only a few of the old cafés left, as people retire or move on, but there is still a vibrant coffee culture in the neighbourhood.

These days, old school means Cafe Calabria, Continental, or Turks, all of which were thought of as newcomers when I first moved to Commercial Drive, in my university days.


I have an especial fondness for Continental, as it continues to be the site of the kind of in depth political and philosophical conversations that students, activists, and long-time Drive residents love – and it still serves great coffee. I used to live around the corner from Continental and I had a really good chocolate cake recipe that called for exactly one cup of strong coffee. I’d get an Americano to go, bring it home, and make the cake. It was always a hit. Now, I like to visit for a shot of nostalgia with their excellent coffee.

 

 Turks is the place my Dad wants to drop by, almost every time he comes to visit. Their coffee is consistently good and their patrons are half longtime Drive conversationalists and half laptop-toting students. Locally roasted, award-winning coffee, generous hours, and treats from local favourites like Livia Sweets keep Turks busy from morning till night.

In the last few years, there has been a new wave of coffee shops and cafés appearing along Commercial Drive and East Hastings. These are the ones my neighbour and I like to try on our adventures. They’re not all coffee-focused, but they all serve a commendable cup.

Here are a few of the most notable ones:

Commercial Drive

Bump n Grind


Bump n Grind serves a variety of coffees from excellent small roasters like Victoria’s Bow & Arrows. They bake some great treats in house and source gluten-free and vegan treats from a local producer. It’s a welcoming space that’s always busy.

Moja


Moja is the new kid on the block and I end up there often, because they’re open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. They’ve created a beautiful, airy space from an old storefront and they get their pastries from Thomas Hass. They’re passionate about sourcing and roasting their coffee and about three-quarters of the time, the coffee there is excellent. (I think the inconsistency is down to the newness of this location.)

Prado

 

Prado is part of the 49th Parallel family, another excellent local roaster. They serve great food, too, but just try to get a seat. Their bright, open space attracts a crowd all day long. It’s a good thing that they’ve got a parklet in front for sunny days. (Full disclosure, the photo above is from their Gastown location. Also, it’s tea.)

East Hastings

Basho


This is one of my favourite places in the neighbourhood, but I don’t go there as often as I’d like because it’s usually very busy. Everything they present is beautiful and delicious, from the tiniest cookie to a full meal. They use coffee from Handworks Coffee Studio, which is hand-brewed Matsuya-Style. Go for the coffee, but be forewarned – you’ll also be charmed by the tiny, perfect baked goods they serve alongside.

Black Rook Bakehouse


Black Rook Bakehouse expanded into a bigger space several months ago and it’s a cosy, welcoming place to meet a friend or read a book, while indulging in one of their pastries or quiches. They serve AGRO coffee, which is what gets them onto this list, but really, the coffee is just an excuse to have a [S]ingle [O]rigin [B]rownie or a slice of one of their impossibly tall cakes. Then, you’ll find yourself walking out with a bag of croissants or a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Platform 7 Coffee


Platform 7 puts as much care and attention into their coffee as they did designing their space. The concept for the café is a Victorian train station and they get every detail right. One benefit of this design is that the wall of the café is lined with little booths reminiscent of train station seating, which means it’s often easy to find a seat, even when it’s busy. They also have a not-so-secret garden in the back for even more seating in the summer.

All of which is a very good thing, because Platform 7 requires many visits to experience all they have to offer. They serve a range of Stumptown coffees, which you can try at their espresso bar, their brew bar, or cold brewed by the bottle. Their brew bar is especially fun – get a flight of coffees and you can try three different beans prepared the same way, or one prepared using three different methods.

Pallet Coffee Roasters


Pallet Coffee is much more than a café. They source and roast their own beans, make breakfast, lunch, and treats in house, and source their ingredients, tea, and dairy from local suppliers. You could happily spend all day there, though you’d be awfully full and very caffeinated.

There are more, of course, like JJ Bean or Uprising, but I think I’ve given you at least a week’s worth of places to try.

Let me know if you think I’ve made any glaring omissions. Or, if you’re not local, let me know what your best coffee neighbourhood has to offer.

One Last Kick at the Plan

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Tonight, the Citizens’ Assembly on the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan had its last community roundtable. The subject of discussion was the draft sub-area recommendations, on specific parts of the community like Cedar Cove, Nanaimo, and Broadway and Commercial.

I arrived shortly before seven and the line up of participants was nearly out the door, while inside, most of the tables were almost full. I managed to get a seat at one of the Britannia-Woodland discussion tables, then during the second round, sat at a Commercial Drive discussion table. People were still arriving as the discussion started and as with all of the meetings I’ve attended so far, there were enough participants to fill at least a half dozen more tables. As it was, people found space where they could, or sat two-deep for some of the more contentious discussions.

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As always, I was impressed by the knowledge and commitment of the Assembly members and the community members who came to the meeting. There were fruitful discussions and agreement on many issues, though there will never be consensus on others.

Here are a few of the highlights from the summaries at the end of the night:

  • More creative use of industrial lands is needed.
  • Nanaimo Street needs to be developed, but in a way that respects current residential uses.
  • Affordable housing is the crucial issue for the Britannia-Woodland sub-area.
  • Cedar Cove needs to be better integrated into the neighbourhood, with transit and Commercial Drive-like spaces for small business.
  • Commercial Drive needs to be kept affordable for independent, small-scale businesses. Ideas like allowing businesses to make use of laneways might be part of the solution.
  • Public space needs to be truly public, rather that the private-public space seen in places like Yaletown, that’s not truly accessible to citizens.
  • Co-operative housing and other affordable housing need to be protected and promoted, so that we can retain a mixed income community.

No consensus was reached on the development at Venables and Commercial and there was also a concern that though there has been broad consensus at all public meetings on a height restriction of four storeys, the proposals that are presented to the public keep integrating greater height limits.

There was broad support, with some objections, to the plan for bike lanes along Commercial/Salsbury, along with wider sidewalks from 1st to Broadway. The active transportation plan for Commercial seems like it’s going to become a reality.

There’s a divide of opinion on how to protect and expand affordable housing in the neighbourhood. Some believe that density created through condo development and tower construction will achieve that, though the results elsewhere in the City show the opposite effect. Others (including me) believe that density achieved through infill, smaller development, and more distributed density will help protect existing affordable housing stock, while allowing more to be built. Creative approaches to preserving existing buildings, while allowing redevelopment are seen as crucial by many of us.

Those are just a few of the points made tonight. And there’s still a little time to comment on the draft before the Assembly’s last meeting on May 9th. You can email them at assembly@grandview-woodland.ca and you can download a copy of the draft here.

I don’t hold out much hope that the City will respect the recommendations of the Assembly or the neighbourhood at large. But I still don’t think this process has been a waste of time. The Assembly has done an admirable job of recording the views of the neighbourhood and sifting through all the information that’s been given to them.

Most importantly, the overwhelming interest in the process shows just how active our neighbourhood will be in challenging the City if it should present us with something that doesn’t reflect the concerns and ideas that this community has voiced.

Eat Local: Kin Kao

Kin Kao

Every neighbourhood has spaces that are just crying out for the right restaurant. Places that have had a history of good tries or also rans. When you live close to one of these rooms, it becomes a local topic of discussion, as everyone shares their ideas for what they hope the next venture will bring.

Which meant that when the paper went up over the windows of a failed sandwich shop near Venables and Commercial, there was a lot of speculation. And when signs followed, announcing a Thai restaurant would occupy the space, locals started to get excited. As the restaurant started to take shape, the care taken with the physical design suggested equally considered food and the neighbourhood started to get impatient.

In February, Kin Kao opened and justified that impatience. They experimented with their menu for the first few weeks. We were a bit apprehensive to go during this period, as my partner has celiac disease and is also vegan, which can be hard to work around. But, they were able to modify some dishes for him beautifully and now there are permanent selections on their menu that are great for vegans and gluten-free folks.

We’ve been back more times than I care to admit, for lunch, dinner, and takeout and we’ve tried a number of dishes across their menus. Omnivore that I am, the red curry with duck is my favourite, but I’ve been happy with every dish I’ve tried. For Kevin, the green curry with tofu has become his go to dish, with the vegetarian Phat Thai running a close second. They’ve also got a very well chosen drinks list, with the beers from local brewers 33 Acres and Strange Fellows making particularly good accompaniments to their meals.

Take out

I have to warn you, though, Kin Kao is not a Drive North secret – people from all around the city are lining up nightly to enjoy the space. It’s worth the wait, but if you live close by, don’t overlook their take out menu. Their food is just as enjoyable at home. And lunch is a particular pleasure, starting out with soup and moving on to satisfying one plate meals. It’s also not quite as hectic, so it makes a good start to a day on the Drive.

Kin Kao is just the right addition to the north side of the Drive. I think it will boost the business for the lesser known gems around Kin Kao, while acting as an anchor to attract more interesting businesses. It’s also another feather in the cap of our neighbourhood, which is attracting excellent iterations of specific cuisines, like the perfect Neopolitan fare at Via Tevere.

On a more selfish note, we’ve wanted a restaurant of this calibre on this side of the Drive for some time now. And it does Thai food better than most places in the city. They’re going to keep seeing a lot of us.

Kin Kao on Urbanspoon

Co-ops and the Community Plan

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The Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly is nearing completion of its process. By early summer it will have presented its recommendations. Then, it will be up to the City to decide how those recommendations will figure into the final community plan.

Tonight, I attended a community consultation by the Assembly that was specifically geared to co-op housing members, a part of the community that can get ignored in the discussions that centre on the needs of owners and renters in our neighbourhood. There are only two members of the Assembly that live in co-op housing, which apparently represents the proportion of co-op residents in Grandview-Woodland. There are twenty-eight Assembly members that own their residences and another eighteen that rent. I don’t know if there is any representation from social housing included amongst the eighteen renters on the Assembly.

We considered six recommendation areas that concern co-op housing: how the expiration of co-op land leases are handled; the loss of Federal support at the end of co-ops’ operating agreements; advocacy for alternative ownership models in the City; supports for co-ops’ viability over the long term; and the potential for co-op housing to be built into new development.

There was also an initial discussion of a definition of co-operative housing. Though there was a wealth of ideas about what co-op housing means for co-op members and the community, we all agreed that it’s a model distinct from social housing, renting, and owning. The City, as it stands, classes co-ops as a form of social housing, which does a disservice to both models, as they serve different needs and provide different benefits. There is absolutely a need for dedicated low-income housing, but there’s an equal need for mixed-income models that provide security of tenure whether a resident’s income increases or decreases. Mixed-income, affordable housing is especially important in a city that’s becoming increasingly unafforable for middle-income and low-income people alike.

I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of the Assembly’s process. All the members I’ve met have been passionate advocates for our neighbourhood, caring deeply about the diversity that Grandview-Woodland encompasses, and working hard to make sure they represent the need to protect this diversity over the course of the next three decades.

At the same time, I was reminded again tonight that the scope of the Assembly’s mandate is narrow, which makes it important that the community makes itself heard outside that process as well as within it. I hope that CHF BC makes its own submissions to the City with regard to neighbourhood plans across Vancouver, and that the Grandview-Woodland Area Council and the Our Community, Our Plan! group continue to lobby the City on behalf of our neighbourhood.

Deeply Local: Grandview-Woodland’s Citizens’ Assembly

Juxtaposition

These are some of the things I love most about my neighbourhood: I can walk the length of the shopping street as quickly (or sometimes more quickly) than the time it takes for the bus to arrive and carry me from one end to the other; the variety of foodstuffs and staples available within walking distance; the wealth of restaurants and coffee shops; brick and mortar bookstores, record shops, and even a video store; the mix of heritage homes, 1950s walk ups, and affordable apartment buildings, many with room for vegetable gardens; a feeling of engagement with one’s neighbours across the district. The things that I don’t love include the increasing unaffordability of the neighbourhood for both residents and small business owners, the proliferation of condos designed to last little longer than a mortgage cycle, and the increasing feeling that our neighbourhood is destined for suburbification and its attendant disconnection from the deep feelings of community that have been built here.

With all this in mind, I found myself inside on a sunny Saturday along with almost seventy other Grandview-Woodlanders, debating the questions around the construction of a Citizens’ Assembly and the part it will play in crafting the plan that will guide our neighbourhood’s future. The City hired a facilitator who specializes in forms of deliberative democracy like Citizens’ Assemblies and over the course of the afternoon, participants had an opportunity to tackle at least two of the structural questions the City put before us. We met in small groups for half-hour periods, then at the end of the day, there was a summary from each of the tables about the most important ideas that had emerged. All ideas were written up on tear sheets that were taped up around the room and at the end of each session, participants marked their priorities dotmocracy-style.

We were encouraged to choose the discussions we felt most passionate about, but a more accurate assessment for me would be that I chose the discussions I was most worried about. My choices were Composition of the Assembly and Community Engagement. Some of the ideas that came out of the first group included: representing three kinds of tenure – owners, renters, and housing co-op members; reserving seats for aboriginal members, whether or not candidates are identified through the initial call out; using a multi-pronged strategy for recruiting candidates that includes outreach to community groups as well as more passive strategies like mailouts; that twenty Assembly members was probably too few and fifty probably too many; and making sure that there’s representation across the district. The ideas that came out of the second group drilled down a little deeper. Outreach by Assembly members to community groups to capture viewpoints that might not be represented by the Assembly, especially those of vulnerable populations. The three levels of the process (City-led, Assembly, and Community) should not be separate, but should inform each other – community consultation should happen in conjunction with the Assembly and the City, rather than separately; the Assembly’s report should be brought to the public for critique and comment on a regular basis; the City’s plan should be both informed by the Assembly’s proceedings and incorporate the Assembly’s critiques and comments.

I hope that when the City finishes gathering the suggestions from the two sessions and the online consultation, that the information is presented in an unabridged form and that the Assembly is constructed on the most representative basis, not just on the basis of demographic diversity, but also with a socially just distribution that accounts for differences in privilege.

I came away from Saturday’s session with a cautious optimism, not because I believe that this process will be the salvation of my neighbourhood, but because I was engaged with so many people who care about the district as much as I do. I know that a number of people felt the session was too constrained and directed by the City – you can find out more about that here and here. My hope is that the Assembly might help shift the focus of Grandview-Woodland’s future away from developers and toward residents and that through this process, the City will come to value the area as the model of liveability (mixed-income, walkable, diverse, lovely) that it is already.

It’s not too late to comment on the Assembly composition debates. You can find the Discussion Paper here and the link to the City’s questionnaire is here.