YOUR NEUTRAL APOSTROPHES SICKEN ME

The third Foundry District “community consultation” meeting was held at Bruce Jr. Public School, 51 Larchmount Ave., on 2004.04.04.

Some 80 people in attendance – standing room only. The suits in the front two rows on the left side act as though only they have the right to those seats. There was some annoyance as I took the front leftmost seat and plugged in my PowerBook. We were all given a one-page agenda for the meeting (yellow paper), but the suits all seemed to have three-page agendas (white paper). I looked over my neighbour’s shoulder and saw “Depending on the number and degree of opposition to the flyers being distributed” as part of one agenda item. I missed the rest of the sentence, but the options were to deal with a certain issue right at that point or at the end of the meeting.

This of course was a reference to a flyer that some unknown person had distributed in “the community.” I took a picture of it – see small or large sizes. If somebody wants to transcribe it, I’ll link to your transcript.

Paula Fletcher began the meeting at 2005.04.04 18:59. Joe Lobko also sits at the head table.

Paula asks how many of us have been here before vs. how many have never been here before. About half each. Identified Lobko as “a local resident who is chairing a working group [that] is looking at this application.”

Joe mentions that a lot of people received a flyer. “I’m anxious to talk about this flyer as a community resident.” Thinks it isn’t “representative” of the last two community meetings “or what we’re all about here.” Asks if author of the flyer is in the room; “nobody is owning up to it? OK.”

“South Riverdale generally is undergoing change,” especially from Leslie to the Don River. “We want to, as a community, get ahead of the curve, get a handle on how our community is changing,” and have input into “how to make this neighbourhood that I’m part of continue to grow and prosper and how to make it a better neighbourhood.”

The Toronto Film Studios application constitutes 18 acres of land; “however, it potentially has, obviously, an implication to the balance of the area,” and we need to keep that context in mind.

“Why are we having a community working group, you might ask?” Mostly due to “the larger context.” Meeting in late January showed us what Toronto Film Studios (TFS) had in its plans; city staff presented, too. At the meeting in February: “We asked people to reflect on the neighbourhood as it is now,” and what people liked and disliked about the application and where it ought to go. From that meeting, “it was apparent that an economic study was necessary.”

The lands in question are designated as employment areas, which excludes residential. TFS proposes to extend the range of uses. “City staff… have a legitimate concern about the economic uses” of the land. “What kind of protections or impacts should we be concerned about with relation to the Queen St. retail strip?” for example. “We have a lot of small-business jobs in this area – I’m part of it myself.” We have the film studios. How can this development reinforce this employment? How do we avoid losing employment as we develop the lands?

Feedback: Tonight we will focus primarily on transportation and “the public realm… the public streetscape, the public parks, public spaces generally.” In the previous meeting, we talked about the Gardiner coming down and the potential of Lake Shore. A lot of people commented on Eastern Ave. – a traffic sewer, not friendly to pedestrians and children, unsafe to cross. People just north of Eastern Ave. worry about traffic impact, particularly if we extend streets through the developing lands. Perennially, parking; transit; cyclists.

Ken Ferguson from TFS speaks. (He’s the engineer; check the iron ring.) Does this development mean the studio is going to disappear? “It’s a little frustrating for me that I can’t tell you as much as I’d like to about the deal with the port lands.” He has a confidentiality agreement (possibly just a verbal agreement) with TEDCO about the deal between TFS and TEDCO. “Well, it’s absolutely not dead. It is moving forward, and there will be a time, not too far in the future, that we can announce something a little more positive about it… but now is not the time for it.” “I can tell you absolutely not: We are not going to lose any studios on Eastern Ave. before there are more and better studios down in the port lands.”

50% of the (new?) land is vacant; 10 acres on the current lands are available for development today. Nobody is going to want to “hang out at the old studios” when the new ones come into being, “so there will be a time when those are going to be phased out.” But if somebody wants to rent them, “of course we’re going to rent them.”

Economic study: Rather than look for traditional employment uses (manufacturing, warehousing), “business doesn’t work that way so much anymore.” Much more “mixed use” today, as at the Kings (at Parliament and at Spadina). “This is really our vision for this area… We argue that employment that comes out of that type of arrangement is more vibrant and more active” than waiting around for some firm to build a factory. Nonetheless, they lands are zoned for employment; the city wonders what will happen to the employment base.

They have put out an RFP to “close to a dozen different consultants” and have received five good proposals; they have a shortlist of two they are interviewing this week. “That economic study is going on… the purpose… is to determine what impact there will be on the South of Eastern area if in fact any component of residential” is added to the area. However, they are not applying to rezone the area to residential. “We have always said categorically that a mix of uses” improves “intensification, city-building that happens when you have an old industrial area.”

Kyle Benham of City of Toronto Economic Development speaks. “The Importance of Employment Districts” is the title of his first slide. Official Plan sets a goal of 500,000 new jobs and a “diversity of employment opportunities.” We have one job for every two people here, allowing a “density of activity” that allows people, “if they can, to have jobs in their neighbourhoods.” Employment base subsidizes the industrial base. We need a good ratio of commercial to residential (tax) assessment. Employment is an aspect of sprawl.

Toronto has lost 25,000 jobs in the last three years, many of them to the 905. The graph he shows indicates that Brampton and Pickering have above-average growth, but so do Oakille, Mississauga; Vaughan and Markham have average growth. (The spread between the above-average and average figures was small.) However, the “central employment area” has grown by 4.5% over the last 20 years. Manufacturing went from more than half of all jobs to perhaps one-quarter; office jobs now are about 60% of the graph. Information technology is viewed as an “opportunity for new investment and job creation.” Most of the software and systems development is centred along the King St. corridor; growth in that field could repopulate old buildings in Toronto.

Design is another “opportunity.” Graph shows design jobs have increased from 100,000 to 180,000 since 1987. Business services (lawyers, accountants, consultants) are also an “opportunity”; projected to grow 47% from 2002–2012. (But retail, manufacturing, finance are 41%–43%. The x-axis scale of the graph makes business-services growth look larger than it is.)

Shows an unreadable graph about South Riverdale employment dated 2002. Media has 2,500 jobs; next largest is health-care services at roughly half that.

We can “wait and hope” or we can do something to “establish programs to support new growth” (like incentives in certain neighbourhoods) and “create new development options” (“this takes us back to a great extent to what the Toronto Film Studios is proposing… we’re willing to go into the study with them, really look at that”).

Ken Ferguson gets up to mention their Web site, theFoundryDistrict.ca. [FoundryDistrict.com is owned by someone else (in Texas); FoundryDistrict.ca is registered to Suzanne McCormick. Neither resolves to a functioning Web site.] What you’d find “there” might be “interesting,” in his word. Warns us not to be “alarmed by something we don’t like” in the drawings tonight; “it’s nothing more than doodles, schematically showing what the possibilities are.” “You’re going to see options that are obviously non-starters, but you’ll know that we’ve had a very open mind.”

Lobko tells us we have five ten-minute presentations tonight, and mentions that people who are here for the first time tonight won’t be getting the complete picture.

  1. Tearing down the Gardiner
  2. Urban design
  3. Traffic
  4. Public realm
  5. Wrap-up

John Kelly and Vince Suppa from City Works. John Kelly: “Impacts of F G Gardiner Expressway East Demolition,” reads his first slide’s title in Arial Narrow. (God help us all.) Reminds us that the southeast corner of Leslie had on- and off-ramps to the Gardiner. Ten years ago, they considered rehabbing that area of the Gardiner, which “was in a severe state of disrepair.” Metro Council wondered if fixing it was the best thing to do; they started environmental, planning, and traffic studies and came up with an alternate plan. Elevated expressways prompt people to show their backs to that corridor rather than their front doors. They found it would be cheaper to remove a section of the Gardiner to a point west of Carlaw, adding two ramps on and off; the extent of elevated expressway has been reduced by just over one kilometre, which costs less in maintenance. Believes we would all agree that this section of Lake Shore is “much improved.”

Concerns raised at the time were: If you’re going to take down the Gardiner, don’t push all its traffic into this neighbourhood. Eastern is already bad enough. There are no ways to reach Lake Shore between Leslie and Carlaw; to add those, we would have to consider the impact on traffic. Vince “will have a few other surprises for you if time permits.”

Vince Suppa, Toronto transportation services: Time of day and volume of traffic affect speed, delays, and safety. “Time” is interpreted as peak vs. non-peak. “Volume” means local vs. arterial (non-residential). For “speed,” what is the speed at which 85% of the traffic drives?

On Eastern Ave., they’ve looked at traffic signals; truck traffic; parking; and signage. Before the Gardiner demolition in March 2000, Leslie/Lake Shore was “the prime target of all delays.” (Probably not “all.”) He puts up a graph of before-demolition data that is of course incomprehensible even though I’m sitting eight feet away from it. Since the Gardiner came down in December 2001, left-turn volume onto Carlaw has increased significantly. And then he shows after-demolition data, also incomprehensible.

I had him re-explain his charts. Shows an incomprehensible chart of traffic on Larchmount; question from audience points out that traffic volume probably isn’t going to affect speed on Larchmount, while presence of school buses might.

Shows a slide explaining how they dealt with traffic on Lake Shore, principally by using real-time traffic lights that react to actual conditions. “Local benefits/(dis)benefits” is a line on his slide. Nice.

For the Dundas bike lanes, travel times increased eastbound in the afternoon and westbound in the morning, but there was “no significant traffic migration to other routes.”

The next steps include not transferring problems somewhere else.

Mark Van Elsberg, urban design, City of Toronto: They were asked to look at designs “regardless of the land use.” Most significant change is the port lands. South of Eastern differs markedly from north of Eastern. Few pedestrian crossings, for example, and even fewer across Lake Shore. “Very few linkages [from north to south] through the study area.” They’re looking for “opportunities for connectivity,” his slide reads – “potentially to cross Lake Shore at some point,” he notes. Refers repeatedly to “the linear park,” which I assume means the green strip along Lake Shore. Pape Ave. could be narrowed and turned into “a tree-lined boulevard.” Leslie could link to a future boardwalk along port lands.

Looked at the existing built form, where the average setback is 2m. On the south side, they could make that a consistent 2m “to allow for proper tree canopy in the future… [and] to increase pedestrian crossings.” More buildings and uses at grade; off-peak on-street parking “and having a reason to park there.” Slide reads “Development will cause FRICTION.” “Right now it’s more of an edge condition,” but traffic will slow down if you build on it.

Lake Shore “is a bit more tricky.” How to “animate” the edge of the street?

Dave Saunders, a traffic consultant at Lea Consulting working with, or for, TFS: We don’t have any numbers at the moment (for what?). So we’ll only look at a range of options and their impacts. Demolition of Gardiner at least permits us to extend the street grid down to Lake Shore. He shows an aerial photograph with numbers plastered on explaining the morning traffic flow, and it’s quite understandable (three times as much westbound traffic as eastbound on Eastern Ave.). In the afternoon, twice as many vehicles drive eastbound on Eastern Ave. Numbers are not much different from 1999, before the Gardiner came down.

We have the opportunity to create an urban road network rather than a commuter one. One option is no additional access to Lake Shore, but that loads all this development’s new traffic onto Eastern and fails to create north–south links. We’d have to do something to make it difficult to use any new roads as through roads.

Another option: Use more traffic lights on Lake Shore (at Pape and at Larchmount, if extended south). Or the spacing between traffic lights could be more even. Or, for that matter, Pape, Caroline, and Berkshire could all be extended south and all have traffic lights at Lake Shore.

TTC service is fine on Queen but nonexistent on Eastern, with its non-stop express bus: “You really don’t have bus service on Eastern Ave. You just watch it go by.” A bike-lane map has possible lanes on Commissioners, Greenwood, Carlaw, Logan, Sumach.

Pat Bollenberghe, TFS consultant (MBTW Group), talking of public realm: We also have to talk about “the opportunity and the resource,” the natural amenities. Shows a concept slide of trees at curb edge. Another slide: Trees at curb; parking; bike lane; vehicle lane. But “there’s an enormous traffic demand,” and this idea might “fall off the table.” Or remove one lane (reducing it to three lanes of traffic), giving a “splash strip” alongside the vehicle lanes, then a tree line, then the sidewalk. It would look like Jarvis St. in its three-lane configuration.

Or you could revert to four lanes and build into the “edge condition” on the south side, with a tree at curb, a sidewalk, and a “pedestrian greenway” – twice as thick a line of trees and a further sidewalk. North side just has a tree line and a sidewalk. Could also work with north–south linkages.

Shows a present-day photo with computer imaging of trees and planters (and two attractive, long-haired, well-dressed young women, one in a tight top, the other in a short dress). Adding “friction” slows down cars. Shows illustration of street furnishings, paving materials (indeed important “at the micro scale a little bit,” as he states).

Ken Greenberg, architect, still looking and sounding just like Carl Sagan: What kind of problem and opportunity is this? Industrial areas are obsolescent worldwide; “they’re into a second and third generation of uses.” A heckler interrupts at the word “employment.” Old industrial areas had streets, few in number, intended for heavy trucks, and few parks; they became attractive for suburban traffic. We can’t simply remove the existing uses of Eastern; that would make traffic even worse. We have to consider every possible traffic-calming measure. “This neighbourhood should not be sacrificed to [transferring] suburban traffic to downtown.”

Q&A

We now begin questions and answers at 2005.04.04 20:35.

  1. Man asks about economic study: Charles Gray mentions the 11,000 jobs in the study area. How will the economic study be done? Will those jobs be replaced? increased (to 50,000)? Will they be high-paying blue-collar jobs or McJobs? Joe asks that we concentrate on transportation and public realm, though “your question is totally appropriate.” We’ll have another evening on the economic study, Joe says. Kyle will bring numbers to a future meeting. Official Plan seeks “employment intensification.” To meet that, they’d need a denser form of employment (currently 50%, he says, not very understandably). Job type: Information technology, design, film – “these are not McJobs; they are living wages.” (One other person grumbles.) Will you include salaries in your study, Charles asks? Yes.
  2. Another question from Charles: How long will Ken keep TFS going? “That entirely depends on the viability of them.” Will keep them “until we have as much product or more on the waterfront, and then we’ll see what happens.” Wouldn’t want the old studio to compete against the new one.
  3. Question from Kathy: She mentions the flyer. “If there’d been ample information available and known to be available prior to this meeting,” there wouldn’t be this many people here tonight. “It would be really nice to get a hell of a lot more information on what’s going on here.” Joe says he’s not an employee and mentions the two previous meetings. But where were they advertised? asks Kathy. Paula says a door-to-door, from Leslie to the Don, was distributed via the planning department. She took an ad out in the Mirror dedicated to this meeting. “There’s lots of misinformation on this flyer, but I’m glad it got so many people out.” Denise Graham: Original meeting was advertised in the local papers twice.
  4. Another question from Kathy: “I presume all presentations from tonight are going to be on the Web site?” We’ll work toward that, Joe says, claiming that a PowerPoint presentation is difficult to post. Joe asks the front rows if they’ll commit to publishing it. Ken wonders what the “value” is. The suits variously grumble quietly and look absolutely astounded that the files presented at a public meeting should be publicly distributed.
  5. Another question from Kathy: To increase IT jobs, what about improving the power and Internet connectivity in the area? Man in audience wonders if we might not want increased IT. Kyle says telecommunications people follow demand; there are discussions about broadband wireless networks on the waterfront. (First I’ve heard of that. Watch that Verizon doesn’t try to sue your arse.)
  6. Question from unidentified man: Whose meeting is this? Is this a meeting of the city or the film studio? Joe: We’re a community group that reports to the city. “So does this therefore constitute the meeting under the planning process?” No, that would be at council. “So this is effectively an ad hoc group.” “Whatever you define ad hoc to be.” After prompting, the man identifies himself as Michael Rosenberg. Joe: “So can you get to your question, Michael?” Economic study seems to reflect a conflict between city that wants employment and the film studio that wants residential, yet there seems to be this kind of groupthink going on where everybody is using these transportation and economic terms as if you’re so convinced that a combination of information-related jobs and traffic calming is going to work out. Maybe it doesn’t matter, since the city doesn’t have much of a plan either; maybe TFS’s plan to bring in residential is a good plan, too. But the City of Toronto’s economic-development department has no idea whatsoever how to build an economy. IT jobs, for example, are not productive. There’s a reason why manufacturing jobs pay higher than new-technology jobs – they produce something. He hopes that the City doesn’t continue to pursue that plan. The structure of who’s putting forward these studies and who it’s coming from is unclear, but he’s not opposed to a new project in the area. He is opposed to presenting it as an IT area as if it would do anything other than consume resources and make people poorer. Let’s have some real productive jobs in there.
  7. Question from Denis Pelletier: Broadview seemed to be extended to Lake Shore in one drawing seen tonight; will that ever happen? Mark says, in effect, it’s purely hypothetical. Joe says that, in a previous plan, people wanted to increase north–south connections.
  8. Question from David Hannah: Leslie connection to boardwalk? Westbound, the concrete campus will block a boardwalk. TEDCO is not looking at the proper way to consider that. Also, will there be a new street running parallel to Lake Shore? Is it worth it to shorten commuter times while “boxing in” residents on the weekend? Also, was the mistake with Lake Shore that streetcars were never considered for improvement? Should we not have working groups for public art and urban design, “rather than being talked down to at this level,” even if it’s a bit early tonight? Ken Greenberg: The Woodward development in Detroit still can connect via light rail to the downtown. There is a planned light rail for Commissioners; Queen can be improved; Eastern Ave. is the logical place to improve for transit. Presently, Lake Shore has very few pedestrians; “we’re going to have a hard time getting the intersections we think we need there.”
  9. Question from local resident (male): Worked for last four years on Toronto Pedestrian Committee. They’ve been pushing for a minimum 2m unobstructed sidewalk, but the drawings tonight showed lower than that. Put the streetlights over the sidewalk. You need lots of land for good trees, even if that means encroaching on roadways. He lives on Dundas, which doesn’t look anything like the slide tonight (with the trees). Pet peeve: On-street parking. You’re using prime land for parking.
  10. Question from Roxanne: She lives south of Queen on Carlaw, “one of the worst streets.” Any plans for Carlaw, “or is it meant to be a way off the Gardiner?” Joe also lives on Carlaw. Put it on the agenda, Paula says. Paul at Community Health Centre says they looked at Carlaw before. Joe mentions added traffic on south end of Carlaw due to Lake Shore.
  11. Question from man: What impact would traffic lights have on the linear park on Lake Shore? Mark thinks the linear park will stay, but how we cross it may change. Man mentions underground creeks. Ken mentions the one that runs behind the TFS property. It’s surface drainage that hits the tannery lot, ponds on his property, and trickles away. It isn’t really a creek, though apparently there are a few actual creeks in the neighbourhood.
  12. Question from Terry Brackett, editor, ETC News: Lifetime resident. In the mid-’80s, they were fighting about lead pollution, especially from Canada Metal. They tried hard to resurrect the name of Leslieville. “ ‘The Distillery District’ seems to be quite a catch-on, and that’s fine, but I’m sorry, ‘The Foundry’ doesn’t do a thing for me.” Our neighbourhood should never again be sacrificed. My husband and I are getting burnt out from going to these meetings talking about surveys. Somebody’s making a lot of money on these surveys. Just do it!
  13. Question from Kurt Robillard: Lives on Berkshire and likes the idea of slower traffic on Eastern. This street isn’t zoned sufficiently as a school zone; someday a child is going to get killed. (And that’s obviously worse than an adult getting killed, but not as bad as, say, a nun or a cop getting killed. Traffic fatalities are always to be avoided.) Paula says to see the school principal and talk to Paula’s office about getting a speed bump and signage. He and neighbours have had animals killed on the street.
  14. Paula says that TFS could immediately build a strip mall on Eastern, or big-box stores, “as of right.” Current height restriction is 18m on Eastern Ave., but industrial zones have no height limits. Woman: “Hence the request for the roads.” Paula: Once you change the zoning, you’d change the height limits.
  15. Also from Kurt: What is happening with Canada Metal? Joe wants to discuss that some other time. It’s a contaminated site with enormous cleanup cost; they’re in tax arrears; “a city that’s a little nervous about picking up all the liability that accrues to that site, but is thinking about it, working on it.” Paula has asked the city (treasurer, I think) to look at it.
  16. Question from Linda Sherman: What would it take to persuade the city to change the zoning to mixed use? If you aren’t convinced that the employment opportunities will be there, you won’t agree to the zoning change. Gary, director of planning for south district, says they’re concerned about employment. But they want to “phase” the development. “I don’t have an answer to that now, but there are some planning tools we could use.” “Absolute numbers or percentages” will not necessarily be important, but he expects that employment shall be provided. Linda would accept an increase in taxes to make this happen. “That’s very kind of you. You can write the cheque.”
  17. Question from a second Linda: Longtime resident. “You’re being led to believe that you can only have green tied to this development or this rezoning.” In 1991, the city approved a community improvement plan; nearly everything we’ve seen tonight is in that plan. There was a budget for greening of Eastern, widened sidewalks, and the like ($150,000 in 1991, $75,000 of it from the province, $35,000 from the feds). So ask why that plan has not been implemented on Eastern Ave. and why you have to come out to a complex rezoning meeting like this to get what you were already promised in 1991.

    Also: If the Official Plan is before the Ontario Municipal Board presently, is there an application in already to amend the Official Plan to accommodate this rezoning now? Gary: True, the OMB is looking at the Official Plan. There is no hearing scheduled; the new Plan is not “in force.” Have they started the machinery to amend the Official Plan? If you’re doing that without discussing it with the community, that contradicts the spirit of this meeting. Gary: The application requires an amendment to the existing plan, and if we needed further amendments, “I understand we would recommend” them. The application will consider the existing plan and the new one. (Denise Graham then offers an explanation I did not follow.) Linda: $50,000 for Leslie link; $75,000 for “people, needs, and services”; $75,000 for Leslie and Queen. Where did the $50,000 for the Studio District go? What about the $21,000 for community notification? “Back in 1991, folks, you had $420,000 to implement your wishlist.” These things that you want are not tied to this proposal, “because you’ve got it already.” Marilyn Churley gets up, holding her BlackBerry, and says that project was about greening of the area rather than zoning changes, “but that’s all I can remember about it, and I worked hard on it.” Joe says the greening never actually happened, and in essence, this is our second chance.

Left the meeting at 2005.04.04 21:27.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.04.05 10:44. 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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