Agenda Index City of Vancouver


TO: Standing Committee of Council on Planning and Environment

FROM: General Manager of Engineering Services

SUBJECT: Physical On-Street Enhancement - Downtown Eastside and Nearby Areas



City Council has generally endorsed programs that provide upgrading of the Downtown Eastside and nearby areas.


Recognizing the critical importance for improving in and around the Downtown Eastside, several initiatives are planned along the City streets in that location by the Engineering Department in 1998. These improvements focus on the Hastings Street corridor, between Gore and Cambie Streets. They include:

(1) Improved street lighting;

(2) Continuation of lane clean-ups, three nights weekly, complemented by work done with Inner City residents associated with SOLE (Save Our Living Environment), a non-profit society;

(3) Power washing of Hastings Street sidewalks including half block along side street sidewalks;

(4) Placement of 12 additional litter receptacles along Hastings Street;

(5) Removal of graffiti along Hastings Street and half-block along side streets, including painting of light poles along City sidewalks;

(6) Clean-up of tree bases and City sidewalk repairs along Hastings Street and along cross streets for half a block;

(7) Removal of graffiti from wooden hoardings and painting of murals along Hastings Street.

A weekly micro clean-up of City sidewalks is also being proposed by SOLE. The Vancouver Park Board is also giving extra treatment to the Downtown Eastside in 1998 as a follow-up to substantial tree planting over the past year. Many new and replacement trees are being planted.

The Engineering Department is changing its budgeting priorities in order to fund the aforementioned work from its existing 1998 operating and capital budgets. Additional funds, in the form of an Environmental Grant, are being requested by SOLE in order to do urban environmental street work. This grant request is being processed for consideration by City Council following the established procedure. The Vancouver Park Board is funding its work using existing operating budgets. The Office of Cultural Affairs is reporting separately in a companion report on the spending of grant monies to paint murals on wooden hoardings.


The purpose of this report is mainly to advise City Council of several initiatives the Engineering Department proposes to undertake this year to improve the physical, on-street, environment in the Downtown Eastside. Some comments on SOLE's program, Vancouver Park Board initiatives, and a mural project supported by the Office of Cultural Affairs are also described.


With respect to Engineering Services (e.g., street lighting, street cleanliness), the Downtown Eastside environment and nearby areas represent one of the most challenging neighbourhoods, if not the most challenging, in Vancouver. This location is experiencing a wide range of impacts from the area's many pubs and its role as the focal point of the region's illegal drug trade. Many buildings are vacant - resulting in darkness and a lack of attention to lane and sidewalk clean-up and facade maintenance by property owners and merchants.

The area is predominantly low income and has not effectively secured the same levels of public realm conditions as other parts of the city. Recent market housing developments have resulted in higher expectations and demands for increased service.

At the municipal level of government, the City of Vancouver is attempting to take a strong leadership role to address, as best it can, the many deep-rooted problems there. This report summarizes the plans of the Engineering Department, SOLE, the Vancouver Park Board and the Office of Cultural Affairs during 1998 to improve the Downtown Eastside "Streets" environment. As well, other municipal initiatives are actively underway, or are being reported on soon, by the City's Community Services Group (Planning, Housing Center, Social Planning and Permits & Licences Departments) and the Police Services.


Several on-street improvements to be undertaken, are as follows:

1. Improved Lighting

Police services staff have indicated that there is a need to upgrade lighting levels with the objective of improving the ability of staff to survey and monitor activities happening on the street and providing a greater sense of security and safety for pedestrians on the sidewalk. The Police have requested that lighting levels in the following areas be upgraded:

- Hastings (Main to Abbott) - both sides
- Hastings (Abbott to Cambie) - south side
- Columbia (Hastings to Cordova) - both sides.

Two alternatives to dealing with the situation were considered. The first involves installing a second set of mast arms and lights on the sidewalk side of each street light pole (total cost of $77,000). The second alternative is to install pedestrian level lighting on the street light poles in these areas. The cost of installing two pedestrian lights per pole using acorn-style heritage fixtures is $185,000. The two blocks of Hastings, from Carrall to Cambie, already have the Gastown-style three-ball pedestrians on trolley poles, and these would remain.

The pedestrian level lighting would improve the character of the street and may also help create a greater sense of community in the area. However, the lighting levels would be increased only in the vicinity of each pole leaving the areas midway between poles somewhat darker. There are currently a number of dark areas created by adjacent building facades and foyers that are boarded up. As the area redevelops, and more ground-level retail businesses are added, light spillover from store windows will help improve sidewalk lighting levels. There is also the potential for the addition of pedestrian lighting and Christmas lighting to be added later as part of a more comprehensive beautification program. However, Police feel the most direct and immediate way to improve the lighting levels would be the addition of the second set of mast arms along the street. Therefore, this option is being recommended. As the area changes, the ongoing need for the mast arms will be reviewed with Police services.

With respect to the north-south streets, the Police indicate that the blocks north and south of Hastings along Columbia, Carrall and Abbott require additional lighting. Abbott Street currently has the Gastown-style fixtures and a lack of street light poles, which would be costly to add. Except for a couple of locations identified by the Police, Abbott Street is well lit by Gastown-style lighting. The treatment on Carrall is subject to further review as part of a proposal to encourage Carrall Street as the main pedestrian route from Chinatown to Gastown. Columbia Street north of Hastings is the darkest section in the area because of the presence of heritage lighting which uses older acorn-style fixtures and incandescent lighting. Lighting levels cannot be increased further with these existing fixtures, therefore, it is recommended that a second set of mast arms be installed on the sidewalk side of these poles. Figure 1 shows the location and treatment for the proposed upgrade.

The $77,000 for the lighting improvements can be allocated from the 1998 Street Lighting Capital budget for Infill Lighting. This will mean less funding to address safety concerns with respect to lighting levels in other areas of the City in response to requests from the Police and the public. However, this capital program was increased in 1998 from $100,000 to $200,000 through a reallocation of Underground beautification funding so there would continue to be more funding for this program than in previous years.

2. Lane Clean-ups

The Engineering Department cleans the messy lanes in the Downtown Eastside and nearby three nights weekly. Considerable scattered garbage and litter accumulates there almost on a daily basis, particularly in the lanes highlighted on the attached Figure 2. The annual lane clean-up cost, including the flushing, is $120,000.

SOLE (i.e., SAVE OUR LIVING ENVIRONMENT - a non-profit society), also has been undertaking some lane cleaning generally using two workers, for a two-hour duration, every second day of the week. They remove the smaller and lighter litter items which are visually obtrusive. Its funding is from the Provincial Government and the Bronfman Foundation. Over a two-week period, they try to cover the 17 block area shown on the attached plan. This lane cleaning work is proposed to be expanded as noted subsequently in this report.

In the last 12 months, reports from the Vancouver Police and other civic staff have indicated that these two clean-up efforts (i.e., by the City and SOLE) are proving to be effective in keeping the Downtown Eastside lanes in a much cleaner condition than in the past.

3. Power Washing of Sidewalks

During May and June, it is planned to use a power washer for a thorough, one-time cleaning of Hastings Street sidewalks between Cambie Street and Gore Street. The sidewalks on the crossing side streets would be also cleaned to the lane halfway down the block.

This work would be carried out by day shift personnel (to avoid noise if done overnight) who would do one-half of the sidewalk at a time. The grey dirty film on these sidewalks would be removed along with other small objects which have accumulated and/or stuck there over time. The sidewalk residue would be pushed over the edge of the sidewalks and subsequently removed by mechanical sweepers at night. The resulting sidewalk surfaces are expected to be much cleaner thus looking considerably better. The estimated cost for this is $8,000.

Work programs reduced to provide this $8,000 in funding are manual litter removal by motor cart personnel. There will be a small decrease in service in commercial areas outside the Downtown.

4. Placement of 12 Litter Receptacles

Also, during May, 12 litter receptacles would be placed at strategic locations along Hastings Street between Gore and Cambie Street, to supplement the 17 litter receptacles that are already there. This change should help significantly to control better the loose litter which previously ended up scattered on City sidewalks along Hastings street for short intervals of time. The estimated cost is $3,600. Work is being re-arranged to permit the nightly emptying of these litter cans using existing budgets. The $3,600 in funds is normally used to place litter receptacles at newly identified locations throughout Vancouver. This proposal expends the available funds for new locations in 1998.

5. Removal of On-Street Graffiti

The Engineering Department is addressing graffiti on its light poles by cleaning and repainting them. The poles on Hastings from Gore to Cambie are in greatest need of repainting as many have been spray painted with graffiti and the paint is scraped off from the removal of posters. The bottom seven feet of these poles will be painted. This work can be done within the existing pole painting budget at a cost of approximately $1,000.

In addition, staff are contacting businesses such as BC Tel, Vancouver Sun and Province which use sidewalk space in the boulevard within this area bounded by Gore, Pender, Cambie and Cordova streets area for utility and dispensing boxes. These boxes have varying degrees of graffiti on them. So as part of this initiative, these businesses are being asked to cooperate and remove graffiti on their service boxes during May and/or June, 1998.

6. Cleanup of Tree Bases and City Sidewalk Repairs

There are many trees on City sidewalks in this area. Over time, the tree bases have varying amounts of litter accumulate in them. In this initiative, the tree bases would be cleaned and repaired along Hastings Street from Gore to Cambie Streets (including crossing streets to Pender and Cordova streets). The estimated cost is $15,000.

In addition, some basic safety improvements for the same section of Hastings Street, in the form of sidewalk and curb replacement concrete and asphalt fillets, would be carried out on City sidewalks (estimated cost $5,000).

The total funding for the $20,000 of work would come from the Streets Operations Branch, using 1998 funds mainly for this area, with a small shift in funds from other areas of the City.

7. Removal of Hoarding Graffiti and Painting of Murals

One of the most visually obtrusive aspects along Hastings Street, especially between Carroll and Cambie Streets, is the graffiti on wooden hoardings at building fronts. These wooden hoardings were installed by businesses that have temporarily closed down.

There are 12 such locations between Cambie and Gore Streets that have graffiti on wooden hoardings. It is planned, through the Office of Cultural Affairs, to have murals painted to cover this graffiti. About six of the hoardings would be painted at the Hastings Street building sites after they are cleaned off and a base paint is applied. The other six would be done by painting murals on new base boards in a building nearly, after which the mural board would be affixed to the graffiti hoarding. Before any painting or mural work is done, communication would be made with the businesses involved in order to seek their approval. The goal here is to replace the graffiti on the wooden hoardings with murals and the co-operation of the impacted businesses is expected.

The mural painting results from the extension of an existing Community Public Art project funded by the City Council in January 1998, and sponsored by the Carnegie Community Center Association. The process involves experienced artists and area residents working together to design and execute the work. The Engineering Department would assist by cleaning off posters, staples, et., on the wooden hoardings and painting on base paint, when necessary, supplied through recycling efforts in the Paint Industry.

The Office of Cultural Affairs is providing, in a companion report, recommendations on spending grant monies for this Hastings Street mural painting. The estimated cost for the Engineering Department to assist in cleaning off existing wooden hoardings and doing base painting is $4,000. The funds would come from reducing the litter removal along major streets using motor litter carts.

8. SOLE Request

Separately, SOLE is submitting an Environmental Grant request of about $50,000 to City Council. The grant would fund the following two-part urban environmental work program.

(a) All sidewalks in the 21-block area, shown on attached Figure 2, to be manually cleaned in terms of smaller micro wastes not normally removed by City crews. For example, with bans on smoking, there are many more cigarette butts which end up on City sidewalks in this area. They accumulate especially by business entrances, under litter receptacles, and in cracks of City sidewalks. This service would be in place for 12 months. This geographic area would be cleaned once a week.

(b)Undertake on expanded lane cleaning program to include the area shown on the attached Figure 2. They would remove basically small litter items not usually picked up by the City. Also increase the frequency of this cleaning from once every two weeks, to once a week.

9. Horticulture Enhancements

In 1998, the Vancouver Park Board, will plant 60 new and replacement trees in the Downtown Eastside. It will also carry out some re-landscaping in Oppenheimer Park, Cathedral Square and Andy Livingstone Park. The work includes hedge removal, returfing and view corridor pruning to allow better monitoring of activities in the park. It has also increased scheduled litter removal for Oppenheimer Park which improves the situation in 1998.


Capital Expenditures

The only capital expenditures are for certain lighting improvements assessed at $77,000. This work is described under "Improved Lighting" earlier in this report. The funding would be allocated from the 1998 Capital Program for Infill Lighting.

Operating costs

All operating costs are contained in existing operating budgets. Through a change in work program priorities, the necessary operating funds noted in the report, were identified for application to in and near the Downtown Eastside.


A companion report by the Office of Cultural Affairs addresses funding for the mural work.

Independently, a request of about $50,000 for an Environmental Grant by SOLE is being proposed for consideration by City Council. In this program, it is proposed that persons from the Inner City be employed through SOLE for 12 months to carry out regular, micro type, cleaning of sidewalks in the subject area. In addition, they would remove weekly the smaller solid waste items in Downtown Eastside lanes. The cleaning frequency would increase to once a week from once every two weeks.


The physical improvements outlined in this report, basically funded through existing operating budgets, should have a significant positive impact in the Downtown Eastside and in nearby areas. The results should be particularly meaningful along the Hastings Street corridor which is viewed by thousands of pedestrians and motorists daily who originate both within and outside the area.

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