Uptown Live Gonna Give It To Ya

When it comes to New Westminster street festivals, one of our favourites is Uptown Live. This stellar event is returning to the streets of Uptown New Westminster on July 23 from 12-9 pm and we’re pretty excited. We got the press release in the mail yesterday with the complete lineup, and judging from the looks of things, it’s going to be amazing.

We love it when events bring attention to our city, and this one, like the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival, brings a bunch.

This year’s free music festival and street party is headlined by indie music darlings Good for Grapes and The Boom Booms. Other performers include the legendary R & B Allstars, Twin River, JP Maurice, Little India, Blue Moon Marquee, The Tourist Company, Field Study, The Katherines, Tonye Aganaba, Lydia HolBrandon  IsaakGabriela  GenevaTea  PetrovicSarah  Wheeler  and Gary  Comeau  &  the Voodoo Allstars.

In addition to these artists, performances by local acts like the New Westminster Secondary School Combo and Quayside Voices will also be featured.

Outside of musical entertainment, there will be artisans from New West Craft, a mini market from the Royal City Farmers Market, street performers, a Kids Zone, food trucks and more.

It’s sure to be a great day for the family and for Uptown New Westminster and we’re looking forward to checking it out.

For the complete schedule, head on over to the website 


The 15 Million Dollar Goat

Photo: Ross Arbo
Photo: Ross Arbo

An eleven year old girl in Saanich is petitioning her municipality to re-write bylaws to make it easier to own miniature goats in residential areas. She argues that miniature goats can provide pure milk and natural fertilizer, are excellent lawnmowers, and asserts the bylaws (maximum two goats on lots larger than 1.6 acres, and the goats must be females, neutered males, and dehorned) are too restrictive.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell says he supports her idea, and the process to reconsider the bylaws is underway.

This fun little nugget of news appeals to the media on a few levels – the age of the petitioner, the trend of backyard farming, and, of course, the quirkiness and popularity of goats – so the story has grown some legs and prompted a few letters to the editor and national exposure.

Saanich would not be alone should they ease the goat restrictions – I could find a number of cities that allow goats with restrictions in the city – Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland are good examples.

But like all media we consume, we tend to view it with our own lens. So, let’s talk about goats in New West.

Just like chickens, which have always been allowed in our backyards, New West already allows livestock in residential areas. No petition to City Hall required!

Curiously, the bylaws governing urban livestock and poultry aren’t in the recently overhauled Animal Care and Control bylaw (Sidenote: excellently re-written, New West – kudos), but rather in the Public Health Bylaw, # 4271, last revised back in the 60’s, but written in the 30’s. I double checked with the City that the bylaw still stands, and sure enough, the helpful people at City Hall confirmed that yes, Bylaw 4271 is alive and well, though quite infrequently accessed.

Feel free to read them all yourself in all their rickety PDF glory: the poultry and rabbit bylaws start on Page 2, and the animals section – which refers to cows, calves, horses, mules, sheep and goats – starts on page 3. Note the absence of pigs – Bylaw 4271, 9 (a) states pretty clearly that that keeping of swine is forbidden.

Like most cities that allow goats, there’s some tight conditions to keeping them, so tight in fact, that it’s basically impossible unless you are a kooky and/or goat loving billionaire. Development of the city means we have very few unused large plots of land, and those that don’t have some sort of building on them are privately held. The bylaw states (among other things);

9 (b) No animal shall be kept in any shed, pen, or other enclosure situated at a lesser distance than 150′ from the nearest dwelling, place, or house, nor less than 25′ from any road, street, or lane.

9 (c) No animal shall be allowed on less than 1 acre which shall be exclusive of land occupied by dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (d) For each animal, 1 acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (e) For each additional animal, one half acre of land will be provided exclusive of dwellings, outbuildings, and garden.

9 (f) The maximum number of animals on one site shall be five (5).

An acre is 43,560 square feet. My 1912 house sits on a lot roughly 5,000 square feet. It’s a bit smaller than the average lot, a long skinny thing with smaller frontage than typical, but still not the smallest lot in the city. Even if I had no house, shed, or garden (which I have all of), I’d need nearly 40,000 extra square feet. Calculating for the 18 houses on my block (I’m on a cul de sac), I’d say I’d need roughly $15 million dollars to buy all my neighbour’s properties, knock them down, and install my goat into his/her yard.

That’s one expensive goat.


This is a post from our new monthly series, Ask Arbo, in which I answer questions sent in by you! Quirky and random questions about our fine city encouraged! What do you want me to find out? 


Queen’s Park Garage Sale: Family Style

Fresco with his Queen's Park garage sale guitar
Trombone with his Queen's Park garage sale guitar

The first year we paid any attention to the Queen’s Park Neighbourhood Garage Sale (which happens annually all over the Queen’s Park Neighbourhood on the Saturday before Mother’s Day) was 2008, the year my son Fresco was a month old. My partner Saint Aardvark, took our older son, almost-two-year-old Trombone out and they came home with a plastic microphone and a book. Fresco and I stayed home and probably slept, as you do when you are either a month-old infant or that infant’s mother.

Last year, we went all together. Trombone was delighted to get a bunch of trains for fifty cents and Fresco was delighted to sit in the buggy and be handed random items to look at. SA almost bought a manual coffee grinder and has regretted not buying it ever since. We came home happy with a pop-up playhouse / puppet theatre and a spice rack. Sweeter days we never knew!

This year, wrapped up in nostalgia for wonderful garage sales past, (SA was sure he’d find his coffee grinder again) we made some crucial errors in judgment.

1. I let SA sleep in until 8:30. While a lovely gesture, it also meant I was the one to get up stupid-early with the kids. By the time we were all ready to walk around the neighbourhood for 4 hours I was a little cranky. The children, of course, had been ready to go at 7:00. By 9:00, they were not at all about “listening!” or “holding my hand crossing the street!” or “putting That DOWN!” Or, frankly, being rational and yes, I do sometimes appreciate rationality from my under-Fives.

2. We only took the single seat for the buggy, thinking Trombone could walk. OK, yes, he should walk more but 4 hours of walking? Is beyond an almost-four-year-old. It was practically beyond me.

3. We kept forgetting to restrain two-year-old Fresco, who, every time we pulled up to a new house, made an exaggerated gasping noise and launched himself out of the buggy to touch/knock over/covet/tantrum about not getting everything within his reach.

4. Let’s consider the concept of “garage sale” from a child’s point of view.

First, your mom talks it up all morning so you’re more excited than Easter X Christmas + Unicorns! X Trains!
Then, you have to walk 5 blocks before anything happens.
You don’t remember last year because you have the long-term memory of a goldfish at this age.
Finally: you get to a house and there are toys all over the lawn! But you can’t touch them.
Your mom buys you a frog umbrella for $1. You like that part! Then it’s time to keep walking.
You get to another house, with more toys. You forget about the frog umbrella. (short term memory: selective at best)
Your mom keeps telling you that the things on the lawn cost money but the lawn isn’t a store! Why do the things cost money? Why are they on the lawn?

It was like all the over-stimulation and blind obsession with Where’s The Next Thing! of Christmas. But outside. On other peoples’ property. Without the rum and eggnog.

5. Thinking that if we just got them each something to look at at the first table, then we would be able to browse undisturbed for another 6 blocks. It would seem that those days are over.

6. Buying a giant set of plastic blocks that, when put together, make a 4 foot square castle, but deciding we could carry it home. Hindsight says: GO BACK LATER WITH THE CAR.

Yes, that was us you saw struggling down 6th Avenue, laden with two tired, heavy children, an orange buggy, three garbage bags full of plastic blocks, an electric guitar, an umbrella, two unnecessary jackets and a Richard Scarry book. At noon.

But we only spent $8.25 on everything! And we got lots of exercise! And it was a beautiful day!

Next year we’re getting a babysitter.

A Tale of Two Supermarkets

It was the best of stores, it was the worst of stores….well, nothing is that simple.

The new Save On Foods in New West, just before the official opening. Photo: Jocelyn Tomkinson
The new Save On Foods in New West, just before the official opening. Photo: Jocelyn Tomkinson
New Westminster residents, like folks all over, develop a preference for grocery stores. Those of us habituated to the 6th Ave. Safeway in the Royal City Center have had our choice expanded as the Save on Foods has recently opened in New Westminster Center, on 6th st. Like anything, our individual choices will be based on a number of factors including location, layout, staff, selection and price. While it is impossible to say one is the best of stores and one is the worst of stores, your author has gum-shoed around the two uptown establishments to get the skinny on your neighbourhood grocers.

Leaving aside pricing differences, I will start with my impressions. Initial impressions of the new Save on Foods store on 6th St are mixed. The store is small and tightly packed. It feels crowded even when there are few shoppers. The merchandisers have made good use of every inch of space and it is well organized. The parking lot is smallish and the spaces are very close together. I can imagine that on a busy day a driver would have to be patient as the parking and departing cars carefully negotiated the narrow spaces. The store itself is very well lit, the staff are few but helpful, the checkouts feature a self check-out option, a feature I have seen in other stores that always seems to take longer than a professional cashier. I will test those another time. The carts are all new and they behave themselves. The kiddie carts are at the customer service desk and are shaped like a space shuttle. It should be noted that the kiddie carts can not be taken down to the parkade as they are not suited to the escalator-ramp. A parent parked in the underground lot will have to transfer the groceries to a standard cart or use carry out service. One thing that stood out in this store was the bulk foods section. There is a very wide assortment of goods to choose from here, easily double the choice at Safeway. It is well organized, clearly signed and it features easy to use dispensers, including coffee beans, nuts, staples, candies, cereals, etc.

I can’t quite remember if this was a “Food Barn” store or “Super Valu” but in my childhood, I remember the same space being used for grocery store purposes. Like the mini-golf and the old Westminster Mall shopping mall before it, the space seemed bigger then. Now, the building has undergone the latest in a series of renovations, making this building one of the most often re-used structures in the city. It was rebuilt to LEED standards; the first platinum rating in the province but I wonder if any of that environmental ethic was passed on to the choice of produce coolers, refrigeration units and other electricity guzzling retail furniture. Overall, despite the crowded feeling, I found the shopping experience pleasant.

For the Safeway store, tucked in the western end of the Royal City Center on 6th Ave across from the Library, my experiences there are familiar as they are to many New Westminster citizens. The parking lot is large and offers more space to move around but always seems busy. The store itself is less well lit but it is much bigger and spread out. It is always buzzing with customers and it is hard to go through the store without one or more of the numerous staff asking if they can help. The cashiers are so familiar, you know which ones to avoid and which ones might remember your two-year-old’s name. It is a pretty easy shop with few surprises. It features a full pharmacy and florist and the bakery seems a bit more capable. While I buy all of my meat from Pete at the Queen’s Park Meat Market on 2nd st, Safeway seems to always have butchers on duty cutting and packaging meat and fish.

Like the new Save on Foods, longtime residents are familiar with having a grocery store in this part of town as it is roughly in the same position as the Woodward’s Food Floor. Customers at Safeway can trundle their carts right out into the parking lot or the sidewalk with no additional stairs, ramps or escalators. The store offers two rather dilapidated kiddie carts.

For the price comparison, I used the Official Tenth to the Fraser Sample Grocery List. This is my best guess at the products that are most relevant for my family and the average New Westminsterite. While I will try to compare regular prices as much as possible, much of the selection is on sale at any given time. Where relevant I have included additional sale pricing info. Prices as of Aug 2, 2009.

It is difficult to find a true pattern here. With some exceptions, staples may be cheaper at Safeway and all of the extras cheaper at Save on Foods. Price is not everything of course and the minor differences in prices may even themselves out in a full grocery cart.

A note about both grocery stores: why do they have to display magazines with disgusting headlines at kiddie eye level at the cashiers? We have no choice but to see them. Our kids have no choice but to see them. It is invariably a Cosmopolitan magazine cover that shouts “How to be an Orgasm Whisperer” or “100 sex moves to make him beg”. Now bikini models are one thing but can you imagine your four year old, just learning to read asking “daddy, what is a bad girl sex trick?” I am always compelled to cover them or the most offensive covers  in any store that displays this text at the front cashiers. I agree that this is a bizarre tactic but  I encourage all of you to do the same. Protecting the brains of 4 year olds is not a religious goal as anyone that knows me will attest. I just think it is the right thing to do.

Lastly, these are not the only two stores in New Westminster. There are a number of smaller operations, produce marts, butchers etc. Wal-Mart sells groceries in Queensborough, McBride Safeway, IGA at 10th and Columbia and many shop outside the city for the lower prices at Price Smart Foods on Marine and (much cheaper) Super Store on Lougheed near Maillardville.

Like me, you may do much of your shopping at the Farmers Market and in locally oriented businesses. Whatever the case, tell us about your best grocery deals and how you navigate the food-retail labyrinth. We would love to know. If there is keen interest, Tenth to the Fraser could make a regular series on the subject. Perhaps a price savvy customer base may result in lower prices. Use the comment button below to register your experiences.