City Council also considered a proposal to sell off the Toronto Community Housing portfolio of roughly 700 stand-alone houses. 25% of these houses are in Ward 32 and contribute importantly to maintaining a mix of residents in our neighbourhood. Councillor McMahon was a strong supporter of Councillor Bailao’s motion which passed at Council that brokered a compromise in the management of these city assets. Approximately 60 of these homes, the ones that are vacant and in a very poor state of repair will be sold off with the money going towards a backlog of repair work necessary to TCH properties. The sale of any other of these ‘scattered’ TCH houses was deferred until other options for devolved ownership, cooperativization, non-profit management and so on could be considered more closely by a qualified working group. Public consultations and opportunities for input will be part of this process. Councillor McMahon will continue to work on this important issue, but these problems with affordable housing are compounded by the federal and provincial governments downloading housing on the City without providing funds for capital repair and upkeep.
At the Special Council session on transit ion March, Councillor McMahon put forward a motion that passed in a 42-1 vote. It addressed our pressing need to examine what revenue tools could be used to finance continuous rapid transit expansion. Everyone agrees that transit expansion is critical for our city to get more people moving faster, quicker – the biggest challenge is paying for them. To that end, Councillor McMahon felt it important to get a closer look at what revenue tools are available, with an eye to creating a sustainable funding strategy for the full range of transit modes – LRT, busses, subways and streetcars. Councillor McMahon is particularly keen on getting a viable funding strategy in place so we can examine the viability of the Downtown Relief Line that is urgently needed to address crowding and congestion in our ward.
“Remarkably, given the bitterness tainting so much of Toronto’s transit debate, the measure passed in a 42-1 vote (with two councillors absent and only Norm Kelly opposed),” wrote the Toronto Star. “Council’s right and left wings finally came together. Even Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford were on board.
The report is to be prepared by staff and is due back to Council in the fall. The full Toronto Star article is here:
• Basement flooding is a huge problem not only in Ward 32 but in numerous parts of Toronto. Toronto Water has undertaken 33 Environmental Assessments (EA) in areas all across Toronto to determine causes of basement flooding and possible solutions.
•The City has an extensive plan to deal with the problem and public works projects are underway to upgrade and deal with it primarily in North York in this first phase – the hardest hit area according to studies.
•Ward 32 was added to the list of affected areas in 2009 and environmental assessments in the ward began in 2010 tp study the scope and scale of the problem. After the environmental assessment process is complete, in early 2012, Toronto Water will determine the sequence and priority of repair work needed, based on an established list of criteria.
• The time frame for these Toronto Water repairs is 2 to 5 years from the completion of the environmental assessment.
• The reason it takes 2 to 5 years to fix the problem relates to funding and resources available and the requirement to allow adequate time for a substantial multi-stakeholder consultation process, as well as fair and transparent tendering, planning and construction phases.
• Councillor McMahon is working with the Planning & Growth Management Committee and the Economic Development Committee to pass motions to temporarily change development rules in basement flood areas.
Causes of Basement Flooding
The causes are generally thought to be three-fold:
1. Infrastructure limitations
Water experts point out that the design of our infrastructure took place decades ago, limiting its effectiveness in current times. In some cases storm sewers and sanitary sewers are joined together and in other cases they are old and leaking, flow strangely or offer inadequate capacity.
2. Extreme Storm Events
One of the reasons our infrastructure is suffering is that there are more 100-Year storms and similar extreme weather events. As implied by the name a 100-Year storm is a storm of a magnitude that normally comes along once in 100 years. In the past 10 years Toronto has experienced eight 100-year storms. Most people believe that the increase in extreme weather events is caused by man-made climate change. Some think climate change is not man-made.
3. Basements and Owners
While it is usually not fair to blame builders and homeowners for these problems, it may be true in a few cases. Some basements were built in ways that invite problems. Toronto Water reports that it has tried to work with homeowners with flooding basements, by asking them to undertake special changes to their drainage mechanics etc. Most homeowners understand the problems as described in the foregoing and are grateful for the support. Sometimes owners cannot afford to help themselves or don’t know their options.
If you have a flooding basement and don’t know your options, Councillor McMahon’s office can point you in the right direction to get help. Give us a call or send us an email.
It’s been a long and difficult haul but on May 15th, the Toronto East York Community Council voted unanimously in favour of approving the development application at 1960-62 Queen East. Community residents were on hand at cityhall to share their frustration with the planning and consultation process, a frustration all members of the Community Council share, and I hope to address with the Vision Study kicking off next month.
Looking from the outside, it seems almost impossible that a six storey condo development on Queen East could provoke this kind of interest and outpouring. But as you know, Beachers are passionate about our community.
For most, the charm of this neighbourhood is the small town feel, its front porch culture, and a tree-lined walk down to the lake. It’s special – the residents know it, tourists know it, retailers and developers know it. Heck, even dogs know it. And so it’s hard for us to give up on this special character and welcome new buildings that seem more ‘downtown’ than the beach.
But we also understand that we live in a city and development is coming. 145 condo building are going up across the city right now. 100,000 people are arriving here each year, and we’ve all got to live somewhere. Preferably not in prime farmland. And turns out, many of the buyers of these condos already live in the Beach already – they just want to downsize and age in place, to live near the neighbours and networks they’ve nurtured over decades.
So there’s a lot of good reasons to add housing in the beach. The problem is how to do it properly. And that’s where it gets tricky.
So first, I want to set a few things straight. The building proposed at 1960 Queen East cannot be stopped. There is simply no planning tool available to us to prevent the developers from building a six storey condo. The precedent has been set and the mid-rise guidelines are firmly in place on Queen St East. The Official Plan prevails and the guidelines are there to protect Queen Street from further height and density, not inflict it.
So voting ‘no’ on this application is not an option without risking an expensive and dubious legal battle with the OMB. I simply refuse to roll the dice on this neighbourhood and risk getting an even bigger building.
So this is the best we can do, and relative to the rest of the city and the density they’re dealing with, this is not a bad building. Not all six storey buildings are created equal, and this one has a green roof, a living wall, privacy planter boxes at the rear, it exceeds the parking requirements and splits the retail space at grade. The developers have agreed to design changes requested by the community, including adding more brick at the base and most importantly, a step-back at the third storey.
It should be remembered that developers are partners and stakeholders in city building. They contribute millions each year to the vibrancy of our parks, social housing, public spaces and amenities. And they provide housing, retail and employment spaces essential for the continued vitality of the city. Reserve Investments is no exception.
But none of this takes away from the fact that change is not easy for any community. Planning and intensification is fraught, it’s emotional, it’s technical, it’s legal, it’s big money and high stakes. People have a hard time trusting the current planning process, for good reason.
A lot of this anxiety stems from the language of planning which is incredibly confusing. As of right, Committee of Adjustment, rezoning, statutory meetings, angular planes, step backs and the scariest three letters known to humankind – OMB.
No wonder people feel excluded from the process – it feels like you have to have a planning degree to be heard above the din of jargon and legalese. And that’s if you have the time to pore over the drawings, follow the consultation process, and craft emails and deputations. The city definitely needs to come up with a better way to listen to constituents, because the community must be heard.
One result of listening to my community is getting a Visioning Study of Queen Street East commissioned this past January. It will begin this spring and be completed by November. I have asked that no further rezoning applications be granted until it’s in the can and all the stakeholders have been consulted. We need to hear from everyone about what makes the Beach distinct and also what kind of development and design can people live with.
I commend the people of the Beach for engaging with this process rigorously, and it’s because of the insights and pressure they’ve applied, that we have a better building today. It’s not the building some people want, but it is a building that most of us can live with.
I’d also like to thank the planning department. They devoted an astonishing amount of work to this application. Even the acting chief planner, Gregg Lintern, was heavily involved, which incidentally, is not normally the case. I thank the planners for being responsive and available to my residents with their questions and comments. Answers were given, even if the answers weren’t always the ones that people wanted.
What I’ve learned through all this, is that the planning process is bewildering for everyone. And it’s not doing our city and neighbourhoods justice. Everyone needs and deserves more accountability, more clarity, more consultation.
So it’s time to turn the page in planning.
· Our developers deserve greater clarity and timely responses.
· Our planners and lawyers can no longer be subverted by the OMB.
· Our communities should not be asked to become planning experts to defend the heritage and scale of their neighbourhood.
· We need planning tools that fit the job – tools that allow for intensification and growth, but that fit the character of the neighbourhood.
My hope is that everyone will now put their energy towards the Queen East Visioning Study. I want all stakeholders to be involved, to get on the same page, and once and for all, create design guidelines that we can all agree on. I am calling it ‘the beach bible’.
The Visioning Study will be supported by planning staff, the community, businesses, my office and all future developers. And hopefully that means we won’t go down this road again. And we might even be able to use our free time to enjoy the amazing city we live in.
Please stay tuned for further e-updates on the vision study and how to add your voice to this important community conversation.
Services and Associations
Community Centre 55 www.centre55.com
Applegrove Community Centre www.applegrovecc.ca
Ted Reeve Arena www.tedreevearena.com (416) 694-6893
Balmy Beach Club www.balmybeachclub.com
Beach BIA http://www.beachesbia.com
Danforth East Community Association http://decadiaries.wordpress.com/
Danforth Village BIA http://www.dvbia.ca/
Danforth Mosaic BIA www.toronto.ca/bia/danforth_mosaic.htm
Neighbourhood Link Support Services, 3036 Danforth Avenue, (416) 691-7407 http://www.neighbourhoodlink.org/
YMCA Kingston Road (416) 694-1159
Adam Beck Community Centre (416) 392-0741
Beaches Recreation Centre (416) 392-0740
Balmy Beach Community Centre (416) 392-6972
Fairmount Park Community Centre (416) 392-7060
Main Square Community Centre (416) 392-1070
SH Armstrong Community Centre (416) 392-0734
Resident Association Representatives
LB-Beach East email@example.com
Harold Tabone – Neville Park firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Harvey -WPRA email@example.com
Bryan Bennett- Beachfront Lakefront Neighbourhood Assn firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Self – Friends of Queen Street email@example.com
Frank Loritz – Kew Beach RA firstname.lastname@example.org
Uwe Sehmrau, T-Bera (Toronto Beach Residents Assoc) email@example.com
Kate Tennier - Gerrard Woodbine Neighbourhood Association firstname.lastname@example.org
Beach Metro News www.beachmetro.com
Editor Jon Muldoon (416) 698-1164 x23 email@example.com
Beach-Riverdale Mirror/Inside Toronto
SNAP Beaches www.snapbeaches.com
(416) 690-1024 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer Alex Wright 416-698-8205 email@example.com
Beaches Living Magazine 416.690.4269
Hong Zhao 416-997-6186 http://www.beachesliving.ca%20