RICHTER: To LoLo or no Lo - a good question

Is it Lower Lonsdale? Or LoLo? Every time we print LoLo in a story or headline, we get an irritated response from readers asking that we stop pushing the term. It is childish, derivative, and it sounds like a "candy bar, or perhaps a "saloon girl in a cheap cowboy movie," according to some recent letters and social media responses.

The debate over what's in a name comes as the area is going through some big changes. There's no doubt that LoLo was part of the brand for the area as envisioned by the City of North Vancouver's consultant Roger Brooks. Beyond an outdoor skating rink, ferris wheel and concert stage on the waterfront, Brooks' vision calls for a LoLo District, complete with signage and T-shirts for sale in local shops. I'm sure that was focus-grouped out the wazoo, but I didn't find heaps of love for LoLo when I went looking.

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A couple of quick and very informal polls on social media in recent weeks have drawn a largely negative response.

But there is a cadre of people who embrace LoLo because it is fun, interesting, even hilarious, and people opposed are stuffy or curmudgeonly, they've said.

I've seen it argued that LoLo is no good because, for North Vancouver's growing Filipino community, it is the Tagalog word for grandfather. I asked Alvin Koh Relleve, president of the Filipino North Vancouver Barangay, if his community members would mind.

"Not really, but it doesn't sound good," he said.

The earliest use of LoLo I could find in our archives dates back to 2005 when the youth centre at John Braithwaite Community Centre was dubbed the LoLo Lounge.

Also in my research: the neighbourhood has a regent, if only an unofficial one. Cath-Anne Ambrose has been nicknamed the Queen of LoLo since she was the curator of a photography show at the Café for Contemporary Art called Lovin' LoLo.

"I asked people to submit photos about what they loved about living in the neighbourhood. I had over 100 submissions and we did a show with the North Shore Heritage Society. It just kind of stuck as a nickname because I always say I live my life in a threeblock radius," Ambrose said.

If you search the area on Google Maps, you'll find the alley linking Lonsdale with St. Georges between First and Esplanade is labeled Lolo Lane. That followed a community-led initiative to liven up the alley and better integrate it into the rest of the public space.

One person watching this identity crisis play out with interest is Scott McArthur, owner of Raglan's in Lower Lonsdale, member of the waterfront visioning committee and the man who first coined the term.

More than just the blocks surrounding Lonsdale below, say, Keith Road (though it most certainly is that), LoLo is a brand that McArthur has been cultivating for years. Since it opened in 1999, Raglan's has themed itself around surf culture and the term LoLo started turning up on restaurant's chalkboard in the mid-2000s. In Hawaii, LoLo is a colloquial expression for crazy. In Southern California, a LoLo is slang for a Chevy El Camino, a vehicle long-associated with surf culture. McArthur also founded a group of likeminded surf/skate culture friends who gather for monthly rides on lowrider bicycles. You'll never guess what they're called.

Now McArthur finds himself in an awkward dilemma: He can either protect the brand he developed and trademarked, like so many big corporations do, or he can let it go, much like an artist must let go of a masterpiece to let the world make of it what it will.

In all likelihood, McArthur said he will probably try to find a middle path with an aim to making "LoLo" a unifying force in the burgeoning neighbourhood, not a divisive one.

I'm sorry I can't make a ruling on whether LoLo ought, or ought not be. It looks like it's been happening at a grassroots level for some time. In truth, we'll probably continue using it for a much more pragmatic reason that has nothing to with identity or branding. A newspaper headline typically holds only 30 or 40 characters and LoLo is a lifesaver on deadline.

Only time will tell whether it will catch on. If that doesn't work, one Twitter user had another suggestion: South North Van. Hard to argue with that.

The LoLo debate continues. Let us know what you think by posting a comment on our website, send us a letter or email

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