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Vancouver Myths Busted!

April 7, 2011

Mythbusters_busted

Believe it or not, we're not Canada's rainiest city, and Blood Alley isn't bloody…

By Mary Frances Hill, Special To The Vancouver Sun April 7, 2011

Myth #1: We're Canada's rainiest city

Sure, we may feel waterlogged while easterners gloat in the sun, particularly in winter and early spring. In fact, Vancouver doesn't even rank among the country's top eight cities when it comes to the most rainfall in a day.

The city is eclipsed by Halifax, Regina, Oshawa, Kingston, Toronto, St. John's, Edmonton and Hamilton. But we do rank third among Canada's 24 largest urban centres for the number of rainy days each year, behind only Abbotsford and St. John's. According to the 2006 census, Abbotsford also tops the list of 25 Canadian cities with the most rainfall in one day, thanks to a 218-mm downpour on Aug. 15, 1971.

Myth #2: Downtown Eastside: Canada's poorest postal code 

The residents of the Downtown Eastside might suffer from drug addictions and extreme poverty, and describing it as Canada's poorest postal code (V6A) makes for interesting chatter at cocktail parties. But that would be stretching it. As The Vancouver Sun reported last year, the median income in the Downtown Eastside is higher than it is in Burnt Church First Nation, New Brunswick (E9G), where the median income was $9,000 in 2006, and Vanier, Ont. (K1K), a neighbourhood in east Ottawa with a median income of $9,500.

Vancouver's V6A ranks just below communities in Adamsville and Winnipeg. As of 2005, about 47 per cent of residents in the neighbourhood could be described as lowincome.

Myth #3: Stanley Park is North America's largest urban park 

So says Tourism Vancouver. At 1,000 acres, it's big, sure, and it's 10-per-cent larger than Central Park in Manhattan, but there are a list of parks around Canada (the 10,000-acre Rouge Valley Park in Markham, Ont.) and the United States (Phoenix's South Mountain Park, at 16,283 acres) that trump our beloved park in size.

Myth #4: Blood Alley got its name from a nefarious history of murder, hangings and turn-of-the-century violence 

Not so. Ask any city historian, and you'll hear a frustrated sigh over this one.

What gives? Blood Alley was given its title in 1970, perhaps to whet the appetite of prurient tourists. Its real name is Trounce Alley, after Victoria's Trounce Alley. And despite the fact that it's near Gaoler's Mews, there haven't been any hangings or murders. It's just an alley, people. Get over it.

Myth #5: Beneath Chinatown lies a maze of tunnels and secret passageways 

Wrong. The Vancouver Police Museum's Chris Mathieson, who conducts a "Sins of the City" tour, hears this one a lot. It's easy for anyone to get confused, particularly history buffs who may have happened upon the 100-year-old Vancouver Sun article headlined "Vancouver police explore Chinatown tunnels ." Not that Chinatown doesn't have any juicy stories in its underbelly. Opium dens, brothels, gambling hangouts -they were all there, sure. But they're basement rooms with connecting doors. No funky mysterious tunnels, sorry to say.

Myth #6: Vancouver is a dangerous city 

It's easy to feel that way when you hear about gang shootings, but in fact Vancouver has a very low rate of incidences of murder, sexual assault and impaired driving. The city has seen 16 police officers killed in the line of duty in 125 years, a relatively peaceful record, according to Mathieson. A 2009 Statistics Canada reports states that as of 2008, Vancouver had the seventh-highest crime rate among Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas, dropping three spots since 2005.

Myth #7: Stanley Park is old-growth forest 

Established in 1888, Stanley Park has heard the saws of about five different logging companies in its ripe old life, from the 1860s to 1880s. The trails in the park may look pristine for the most part and man-made, but no, the majority are old skid roads left over from the logging days.

Myth #8: Property prices never drop in Vancouver 

If you're a longtime househunter, that probably feels about right.

Surprise! Recessions actually do affect Vancouver real estate. At least they did twice in the last 30 years. The average price of detached homes fell in 1981 -to about $150,000 from nearly $200,000. Homeowners trying to sell between 2009 and 2010 shed a few tears as well. In July 2010, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported that housing sales in the Vancouver area were down by more than 30 per cent compared with sales in June 2009. *Being a realtor, I must add here that although there was a big drop in activity and therefor prices, a year later, we were back up above the highs we saw before the drop. Moral of the story: the Drops are far and few between – and anyone in their right mind would advise to get in the sooner the better and ride the wave – rather than playing against the odds.

Myth #9: The West End is the densest neighbourhood in North America 

The densest neighbourhood in B.C., more likely. But not across the continent -or even Canada.

There are about 42,000 people living in the West End, which comprises an area of 2.12 sq km, or about 20,000 residents per sq km.

St. James Town, a neighbourhood in Toronto, boasts a population of 30,000 people -in an area slightly smaller than 1/4 sq km. That works out to about 120,000 people per sq km.

Myth #10: The east side has always been the less prosperous side of the city 

If that were true, the Victoria Drive and Commercial Drive environs wouldn't be lined with big ol' beautiful homes.

For those with cash to spare, Victoria between Venables and 1st Avenue was the place to be. The movers and shakers of early Vancouver, such as the Bell Irvings, Mayor McLean and R.H. Alexander all took up residence in the 10 tony waterfront areas along Cordova, Powell and Dunlevy, east of Main. Eventually, the building of the Shaughnessy neighbourhood around 1909 killed the east side money vibe.

Sources: Canada Census figures; Chris Mathieson, Vancouver Police Museum; Stanley Park Ecology Society; walking tour coordinator/city historian John Atkin; B.C. Real Estate Association

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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