Here in South Riverdale, the Toronto Film Studios on Eastern Ave. proposes to move to the port lands (subject to negotiations whose secrecy bothers a lot of people, but that’s how commercial real estate works). Its old location, fully 18 acres in size, would be redeveloped in some way. At present, it’s zoned as industrial land and is considered an “employment area” by the city; to alter that zoning, particularly to include housing, would require a special application. The Studios intend to file such an application.

But they’re going to some lengths to engage in “community consultation” before they build anything. Three full meetings have been held, all of them about three hours long and all held at Bruce Jr. Public School on Larchmount. I’ve been to all three, as have 60 to 80 other people. I’ve begun to take notes.

I have something resembling an open mind about this development, but it’s also easy to see why people would be suspicious.

  • The existing owners could build big-box stores or strip malls or similar abominations “as of right,” with no advance planning permission whatsoever. We are repeatedly told by City Councillor Paula Fletcher and “community liaison” Joe Lobko (no relation) that TFS doesn’t want to use that right.

    Obviously that kind of development would be less lucrative over the long term than doing things properly; I give TFS and its architect and consultants that much credit. It’s clear they want something genuinely urban and livable (also profitable) on this giant property. But we’re essentially being threatened here: I’m sure you’ll agree it’s terribly nice of us to invite you all to these meetings. But you do realize that we can just forge ahead and do certain things without you, right? So please go along with what we propose.

  • I think the city and the developers are making reasonable efforts to get the word out, but obviously they need to make beyond-reasonable efforts.

    1. An unknown author distributed a flyer around the hood this week; I didn’t get it, but I did snap a photo at last night’s meeting (small or large sizes).
    2. People complained at the meeting that they had never heard about the previous two meetings.
    3. Paula Fletcher rejected doing another leafletting of the neighbourhood, as they had done in advance of the first meeting, because, at $400–$500, it’s too expensive.

    Sadly, all of this is bullshit (including the samizdat flyer). A proper “community consultation” goes to elaborate lengths to consult the community, not just the few dozen people presently in the know. Spend the damn money and leaflet, Paula.

  • I warned the land developers and Web developers that the official Web site (separately subject to domain-squatting, which any competent developer could have avoided) had better be standards-compliant and not some Flash monstrosity. For the most part, it is the former, and it certainly is not the latter. But – and this has already come up at the meeting – everything that’s presented at the meetings must be posted, even if you have to do it in proprietary formats like Word and PowerPoint. It’s not “technically difficult,” OK? It was astonishing to watch Lobko and the two full rows of suits grumble and mutter at this concept. You already presented it in public; stop being a little bit pregnant, and don’t make us file freedom-of-information requests with the city.

    And as for those proprietary formats, Google will eventually index them, and if necessary, I’ll simply convert them and hand them back to the Web site for posting. (If they won’t post them, I’ll use the fair-dealing provisions of the Copyright Act, which my lawyer and I are quite familiar with, and do it myself.)

I’ll type my notes from the first two meetings later. My notes from last night are available in a separate posting.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.04.05 10:55. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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