Search for Metro Vancouver's best neighbourhood: Championship semifinals
Will Steveston or Pitt Meadows face Mt. Pleasant in the final match?
Two communities near the water, where industry and residential land co-exists, around 20,000 people, each somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes away from downtown Vancouver (depending on the traffic), the balance between growth and preserving the status quo always delicate.
Yes, there are some similarities between Steveston and Pitt Meadows — the two neighbourhoods that face off for the right to face Mt. Pleasant in the championship round of the Search for Metro Vancouver's Neighbourhood.
At the same time, neighbourhoods outside of the City of Vancouver all march to the beat of their own drum, each with their own unique culture and concerns, even if on the surface they can sometimes have similarities.
And as two of the final four neighbourhoods in our competition, both have obvious virtues that have got them this far.
It's fish that made Steveston, even when it wasn't Steveston.
"For thousands of years ... the Indigenous people were here originally. They knew that this was a great spot to catch the salmon," said Mimi Horita with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site.
"I'm one of the lucky few that gets to say my commute is along the boardwalk where the old canneries used to be."
If the fish have been constant, so too has been change — from salmon packing to herring, from the influx of Japanese immigrants in one century to Chinese in the next, from the transition from mostly farmland to mostly residential land, from a pure working port to one mixed with heritage and tourist attractions.
"If you look at multiculturalism in the dictionary, if you open up that book, it would say Steveston, because, to my mind, Steveston is the epitome of the multicultural policy in Canada," says Kelvin Higo.
Higo was born in Manitoba, to parents forced out of B.C. during the Second World War as part of the Japanese internment policy, moving as a child back to his father's hometown neighbourhood.
In recent years, he's worked to create a memorial to Japanese internment in Steveston, one of the many volunteers who helps preserve the neighbourhood's past and shapes its future.
"We're an example of how various groups can work together," he says.
Of course, the argument against Steveston is that it's more of a destination for visitors than an evolving neighbourhood for locals.
"Everyone loves fish and chips and such, and it's very touristy. But Pitt Meadows is very home," jokes Leslie Norman, curator of the Pitt Meadows museum.
Pitt Meadows doesn't get the same sort of historical attention as Steveston, nor does its waterfront get packed with tourists in the summer.
What it does have is the breadth of British Columbia — quick access to rivers and mountains, farms and forests — in the package of a small town.
"It's a safe, clean neighbourhood, lots of community feel. It's a place you can raise your children, have the backyard, the BBQ, your kids can walk to school, ride their bikes up and down the street," said Jennifer Hopcott, third-generation Pitt Meadows resident and operations manager at Hopcott Premium Meats.
Live in downtown Vancouver, and it may sound a bit Pollyannaish.
But there's a reason Pitt Meadows residents have rallied around this competition in a Facebook campaign, defeating more popular weekend destinations like Belcarra and Deep Cove to get to this point: it's a truly connected community.
"People move here for the same reason: they love the ambiance … and they want it to stay the same," says Gwen O'Connell, a city councillor for most of the past 26 years.
"You can't expect to [grow] to a population of to 20,000, and not expect change. But what hasn't changed is that feeling of a community. It's old-fashioned, and people like that."
Voting is open until midnight on Thursday, Aug. 20, with the winner advancing to the championship round on Aug. 21.
Tale of the tape
- Average age: 43.4.
- Average household size: 2.5.
- Renter households: 35.5%.
- Average total household income: $142,000.
- Visible minorities as a percentage of neighbourhood population: 42.8%.
- Road to the Elite Eight: First round bye, defeated Seafair 93-7%, Thompson 94-6%, Garden City 94-6%, Queen's Park 52-48% and Burnaby Heights 53-47%.
- Average age: 41.
- Average household size: 2.6.
- Renter households: 22.4%
- Average total household income: $100,000
- Visible minorities as a percentage of neighbourhood population: 18.9%
- Road to the Elite Eight: defeated Oxford Heights 63-37%, Glenwood 64-34%, downtown Port Coquitlam 60-40%, Belcarra 50.3-49.7%, Lions Bay 59-41% and Deep Cove 52-48%.
With files from Vivian Luk and Stephen Quinn