Like Many Vancouverites, when the City announced it's new $3million dollar website last month - I was curious to check it out.
Sure, it carried a hefty price tag, but then again a content management system of that scale is a lot of work. As I understood they would be using their own custom system, $3 million didn't seem that unreasonable. Being a graphic and web designer myself, but also as a tax-paying citizen I had to take a look.
First impressions, meh - ok looking, but given the extent of creative talent in this city I was pretty disappointed. Oh well, it's a new roll-out, maybe it will improve as time goes on [update note: it didn't]. But, a website is more than just a pretty looking site - as we say in the biz: content is key.
So my next stop on the the new website was our neighbourhood page - the hub for info, links, maps, statistics and resources for Strathcona.
But when I went looking, I found that our neighbourhood had been disappeared.
Pictured above is the new webpage on the City's site, which now defines Strathcona as being within the Hastings area. The Hastings area is described as: "from Downtown to Burnaby, right through the Hastings area, which includes the historic neighborhoods of Chinatown, Strathcona, Gastown, and Downtown Eastside, and other residential areas."
So not only was Strathcona gone, but so was the entire Downtown Eastside — and with them, the very identities of Vancouver's founding neighbourhoods
It bears mentioning that these neighbourhoods are also hotbeds of activism, and areas being specifically targetted for urban renewal.
From the Chinatown Historic Area Heights Review which would see the incursion of high-rise condo towers, to the upcomingDowntown Eastside Local Area Plan which is widely being seen as a prelude to massive redevelopment of the area - there are big changes afoot for the neighbourhoods. Eliminating the identities of the neighbourhoods could be seen as a first volley in a move to first disempower, then redefine the area as part of a larger redevelopment scheme.
Plato is said to have once proclaimed: "those who tell the stories also hold the power".
The basis of negationism, or historical revisionism is to twist and obscure the truths of the past in order to manipulate information or opinion. Strathcona has been very vocal and assertive, standing in the way of the City's viaduct removal and redevelopment scheme, the Downtown Eastside has long been a hotbed of anti-gentrifiction activism. What better way to eliminate and delegitimize that opposition than eliminate their very identities.
I imagine as the DTES Local Area Plan unfolds, the disappearance of these neighbourhoods will make more sense - I predict subtle, yet profound changes to established geographic boundaries and zoning areas.
In the meantime, check out the former community web-pages, which I tracked down on the still operational and unofficial "former" website for the City of VancouverStrathcona: http://former.vancouver.ca/COMMUNITY_PROFILES/strathcona/index.htm
DTES Revitalization (Strathcona, Chinatown, Gastown, Victory Square, Oppenheimer/Japantown):
I followed up on this with City Staff working on the DTES Local Area Plan - and was informed the decision was "corporate". Which I suppose will require some sort of FOI to get to the bottom of why our neighborhoods have been disappeared...