March 23, 2018
Choosing the Best Neighbourhoods: How We Did It
We have our fair share of lively debates here at VanMag HQ—whether macarons are still a thing, whether the Sylvia Hotel is haunted, et cetera, et cetera—but “What’s the best neighbourhood in Vancouver?” was the question that really brought the heat. Suddenly, it was east-siders versus west-siders, trendiness versus longevity, and hours of production time lost as we argued over the specific boundaries of whatever “the Fraserhood” is.
But subjectivity can take one only so far when it comes to finding an answer. After duking it out and doing our research (we are professionals, after all), we finally put our opinions aside and boiled “livability” down to its bare bones. Beyond lifestyle preferences and the intangible—and deeply personal—cool factor, we could all agree on a few things (see our full wish list below): a great urban neighbourhood will always be walkable, have reliable neighbours and feel safe and connected.
Our qualifiers established, we then turned to the expert, award-winning data journalist Chad Skelton, to mine stats and figures for analytic gold. Skelton worked with us to define quantifiable measurements for everything on our list, from trustworthy data sources like Stats Can and the City of Vancouver. To determine ethnic diversity, for example, he measured the chance that any two people, chosen at random, will be of a different race; for biking, walking or transit, he collected data on all the commuters who get to work without a car.
A few editorial decisions were made once the numbers were in hand. UBC ranked highly in all of our qualifying categories, but we agreed that recommending the campus to non-students was unrealistic. We cut a few lower-profile residential ’hoods from the comparison altogether (no offense, Arbutus Ridge!) to focus on the more diversely developed areas of the city. Ultimately, though, it was the cold, hard data that decided our 2018 Best Neighbourhood—the West End. (Just a coincidence that this is where our editorial director, Anicka Quin, happens to live…though that hasn’t stopped her from gloating.)
Of course, everyone (not just our opinionated editors) needs something different from a community—access to running trails, a great ramen bar, a safe place for your kids to play, a lively singles scene. Though each of the neighbourhoods on this list may be great, they’re also just a starting point—so we’ve put Skelton’s amazing interactive neighbourhood finder tool for you to tweak for yourself. Play around with categories that mean the most to you, find your personal best neighbourhood and then let us know where you landed. Because even after putting this issue to bed, we know this is one debate that may never reach an end.
Lots of good restaurants and cafés
Great for biking, walking or transit
Plenty of green space
A mix of owners and renters
Educated and civically engaged neighbours
#1: The West End
The Vibe: Friendly beachside hangout
Average Monthly Rent: $1,287
Average Home Price: $635,738
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Hit up Score for out-of-control Caesars; the seawall for dodging rollerbladers and taking in the ocean views; Maple Leaf Bakery for giant apple fritters.
Locals Say: “You’ll never feel unwelcome or out of place here. It’s a cute residential neighbourhood in the middle of downtown, next to a beach so beautiful they called it ‘Sunset.’ Eat it, every other neighbourhood.” —Caitlin Howden, 35, director at Blind Tiger Comedy and member of the Sunday Service