Gentrification and Hipsters

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.”

6 thoughts on “Gentrification and Hipsters

  1. It is unstoppable, and anyway, where did you come from? Did you emerge wholly formed one day, sitting in a women’s collective meeting wearing birkenstocks and a che guevera button? Or did you, ya know, move there from somewhere else? Where did your parents come from? You sound like a very close-minded, small thinking person. I’m glad your ‘hood is changing.

  2. Oh ad hominem I love you. Hipsters? Really? What year is this? If I was to describe poor people in the manner in which you have above, I’d rightly be called a bigot.

  3. You have access to a computer, a good grasp of English, and the ability to reason (despite being misguided), therefore you are low-income by choice, and resent those that chose otherwise – meaning something higher than low-income. No pity, whatsover. No pity. Right now in the same City, there are poor, uneducated immigrants with barely any English who are comfortable carving out a life for themselves and their family, through focus, tenacity and will. Go find some Karen.

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