Twelve streets named “drives” run north-south between Raymur Avenue (on the eastern edge of Strathcona/the old East End), and Nanaimo Street (on the western boundary of the Hastings Townsite). The twelve drives extend for a full mile from Glen Drive to Garden Drive. The names speak of turn of the century urbanism—Glen or ‘narrow valley’, Woodland, Lakewood & Garden. High profile streets include: Clark, Commercial and Victoria. The platting is single cottage lots sprinklered with row houses. Glen was formerly “Boundary Street”, two blocks west of Clark. Vernon lies between Glen and Clark.
The date on the old building at Admiral Seymour Elementary School (1907) is the best clue for the platting of the Drives. It coincides with the economic boom that ended in 1908. Modern planning drew wareouse zones anywhere and everywhere in this area, ignoring both the patterns set by older warehouse and factory buildings, and the cottage lots. The Jane Jacobs motto about preserving neighborhood fabric was coined to speak against this kind of planning.
Neighbors on Vernon Drive speak of another kind of intrusion: the drugs and street workers that come from next door. They talk about the problems with infestations and the lack of social functioning at the Raymur housing project.
This is yet another Vancouver neighborhood that clings to life on the strength of the people, the school, the grocery, and the superb scale of the platting on the streets and blocks that escaped rezoning. Neighborhood chatter bubbles up in the pockets of remaining houses, row houses and cottages. They speak about values of community and values of place, and about the reality of living in a sustainable urbanism. They are eager listeners to the message of incremental intensification with products that will reinforce the human-scale urbanism still alive here. They are interested in the idea of implementing transportation to take cars off the road, and give drivers a viable, efficient alternative. They are expert and articulate about their local place.
©˙Lewis N. Villegas, Vancouver, January 2012.