“NO ONE IS SUGGESTING YOU CAN CONQUER GAUL BY DEADLIFTING 4 PLATES”

Last night (2008.01.10), we endured yet another in a years-long series of public meetings about what used to be called the Foundry District. It is now a threatened megaplex, run by Smart Centres, of big-box stores, surely including Wal-Mart. Pretty much nobody wants it, but it’s now before the OMB and who the hell knows what’s going to happen. I again felt obligated to attend and take notes (via “18th-century liveblogging”).

Ostensibly we were there to learn about the South of Eastern Planning Study Final Report (PDF), released in December with next to no notice. What we got was a longish presentation, read from a script, by planner Diane Graham, who later outed herself as a local resident.

The most important issue, apparently, is an upcoming meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council on January 15 at 10:00 hours (or thereafter). That’s the public meeting required under the Planning Act to consider the final report. I may or may not go.

GRAHAM: In August 2004 there was an application to amend the official plan and zoning for 629, 633, and 675 Eastern Ave. The official plan sets out the vision, policies, and results that City Council wants; zoning sets out rules to implement those. The area is zoned for industrial development. There was a request to add a host of new uses, including residential, office, hotel, and retail, none of them presently permitted.

In December 2005, the developer appealed to the OMB [Cases PL051314 (main) and PL061112]. The hearing is set to last 12 weeks starting May 5; there are more pre-hearing conferences upcoming.

The application triggered a planning study because City Council will not entertain non-industrial uses an in industrial-zoned area. The South of Eastern employment district is bounded by Eastern Ave. Lake Shore Blvd, the Don River, and the east side of Woodfield Rd.

We’ve had four previous community meetings. A community working group [still a mysterious, ill-explained politburo] met with the applicant six times. Themes from previous community meetings:

  • Eastern Ave.: Traffic speed, appearance
  • The corner of Leslie and Eastern
  • Review the existing Community Improvement Projects
  • Strengthening the vision of [for?] the Studio District
  • Greening
  • Canada Metal
  • Linkages, especially to the waterfront

From June to September 2005, we carried out business-stakeholder meetings to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of running a business here. Concerns: Instability with possible infiltration of residential into industrial lands; need for more land for expansion.

Provincial policy statement says to preserve and enhance employment areas. But after the application was submitted, a new official plan was adopted (in July 2006). It designated South of Eastern an employment district, to be protected and promoted exclusively for economic activity. It will be enhanced to ensure it functions well.

However, the former official plan applies here. It discourages loss of industrial lands. But industry evolves. We must be flexible to consider non-industrial uses, but that requires a study. Most of South of Eastern is industrial, with a recognized small residential pocket. In the study, even with assumed low growth, we need all the employment lands.

The July 2006 planning study (PDF) found this area functions well and will continue to do so if protected.

In September 2006, City Council amended the official plan to remove the possibility of power centres in South of Eastern employment districts. That was appealed to the OMB.

On January 15, Community Council will consider a planning report that will recommend a secondary plan for that amends the official plan by fine-tuning policies that affect this area. Also includes specifics for Toronto Film Studios site and a zoning bylaw. (The official plan applies citywide; a secondary plan adapts for a local context.)

In the secondary plan:

  • Vision: Polices are needed just for the geography of the area. Reinforce economic sectors by encouraging new economic activities [continues for some time in similar business English, untranscribed].
  • It’s an entrance to emerging waterfront developments and to downtown. Links, built form, public realm.
  • Land use: Range of employment uses including the existing Studio District function. Does not permit large-scale standalone retail or power centres. Permits industrial operations, offices, R&D, knowledge/creative, and media/film/video/recording – and retail uses ancillary and subordinate to those uses if housed in a building put to those uses. Each application for such uses will require its own review. [So I need to apply to open up a service bureau or print shop in a building that houses graphic designers? Do the designers have to apply?]
  • Pedestrians, transportation, parking: Improvements to internal circulation with new public streets and linkages that will reduce dependence on perimeter roads and limit number of access points permitted on the north side of Lake Shore.
  • Parks: New parks in the Portlands, West Don Lands; fixing up Ashbridge’s.
  • Relation to the waterfront. Dismantling the Gardiner gave the opportunity to connect the neighbourhood to the waterfront [no, it didn’t – this myth is commonly reiterated, but check the geography for yourself]. More pedestrian/bike lanes, Lake Ontario Park, and a bridge over the Don River [where?]. If new intersections on Lake Shore are considered, they must improve connections south to the Portlands.
  • Urban design/public realm: [Shows map of two allowed pockets of live/work areas], especially at Eastern/Leslie/Moseley.
  • Adding office uses as of right. Delete these uses: Drive-through, open storage, taxi stands, service stations, auto repair, car wash, tannery, place of worship.
  • 30 m height allowance where presently there is no height restriction. 2 m setback on all properties on the south side of Eastern from Sunlight Park Dr. to Woodfield. (In essence, two old permitted uses, including tanneries, are deleted.)
  • Greening: Coxwell [unclear statement], Lake Shore median.

[And that was it.]

Q&A

  1. Q. from David, 20-year Leslieville resident: You talk about high-paying jobs. But what are the exact business that are lined up? What are their plans? Smart Centres had shown us a plan; we’d like to see yours. Also: Parking?

    GRAHAM: If someone wants to locate there, they usually make an appointment to see me. If the use is as of right—

    — Do you have anybody lined up?

    — I can’t tell you that until it’s public information – until they apply.

    KYLE BENHAM: Three companies asked about space – a toy manufacturer, a small pharmaceutical, and back office for financial services. We suggested they contact Smart Centres. There’s very little vacancy in the area currently.

    KARIM: Smart Centres didn’t tell us who was going to be there, either, just about their planned uses.

    GRAHAM: They didn’t tell us, either.

    ORIGINAL QUESTIONER: Deleting uses like place of worship seems to conflict with maintaining stable industrial lands.

    — For the auto-related uses, we’re trying to make the area attractive. If you have a use that’s already in place, it might become legal nonconforming [a complex Toronto concept – if they change the law and make what you’re doing illegal, you can keep doing it because you were there before the change]. We’re taking uses that we don’t think are appropriate here and deleting them. We’ll see who objects.

  2. Q. from woman: 629 Eastern is Toronto Film Studios. Smart Centres wants I don’t know how many thousands of parking spots there [nearly 2,000]. I worked at TFS as a set dresser. I live in the Beach now. I liked the fact I could just be dropped off or take the streetcar home at 3:00 in the morning. It’s very high-income for workers there; it would be deleterious if Wal-Mart came.

    A. The secondary plan does look at improvements.

  3. Q. from Kevin Walters, Eastern Ave. Residents’ Association: A mistake was made originally even allowing residential along Eastern in an employment zone, and now it looks like you’re trying to retrofit something. You’re trying to encourage demolition of these areas designated live/work.

    A. No, we’re allowing “home occupation.” We’re trying to expand the permissible activities for working at home.

    — North of Eastern you won’t allow live/work?

    — Correct. That would be called home occupation. South of Eastern, the bylaw will define what live/work is. The occupations people are requesting are not the usual live/work occupations (like hairdressing). The definition will be that you can work in your home.

    — Could the minor industrial buildings infill as residential? I think they should.

    — Not as of right. That would have to be a City Council decision. Each would have to apply.

  4. Q. from perennial attendee Michael Rosenberg: The whole thing seems like a final offer between the developer’s and the city’s plans. We want employment, but the city seems to think that some employment is better than others. I’m not clear why you’re leaning toward office and research; research is not to be considered benign. The city shouldn’t be promoting “knowledge-based” work, or the other terms you used. The city position needs to take out knowledge-based and research [jobs], as they are more destructive to wages than Wal-Mart is.

    I’d think half the 30 m height limit would be appropriate. But your economic model is even worse than the companies’.

    A. [Asks him to send her a letter with his proposed changes.]

  5. Q. from Peter Mullen: That 30 m height for north of Lake Shore is eight to ten storeys. That could be oppressive.

    A. Smart Centres is asking for 45.

    — What about the future of the mouth of the Don River? [Gives a plug for diversification.]

    GWEN: We have consulted with Waterfront Toronto, West Don Lands, Portlands. We’re looking at it as a secondary plan.

  6. Q. from Nick: We just bought a house here. What I’ve seen tonight is much closer to the kind of vision I’d hoped for in the first place in moving here. We have an old house, so what you end up with is a lot of repairs. This neighbourhood is also somewhat more endowed with building supplies, construction – Dufferin Cement, Alpine Roofing. It’s almost a subcharacteristic of the area. What about educational uses, like a college to train the building trades? [Applause]

    A. The overall policy is to improve the area. Some uses are from an old era and have a stigma attached to them. Business and trade schools, community colleges, and universities would be permitted.

    BENHAM: Other than the Works yards, we don’t own anything down here. We have to rely on the private market. There’s no guarantee an institution would come in.

    MAN: Ryerson and U of T are cramped for space. Ryerson Urban Studies has held classes here for years. [Mentions that pollution has been overlooked and public transit needs to be emphasized.]

  7. Q. from woman: The waterfront is an asset to any city. Toronto has no vision for anything even close to what it should be. A toy factory is no better than a Smart Centre as far as I’m concerned. [Cites a study about an area’s needing more police after a Wal-Mart moves in.]

    A. I don’t really have a comment back.

    MAN IN AUDIENCE: Canadians are different from the states.

    WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Not true. [Oh, bullshit.]

  8. Q. from Alex Hooper, set decorator: While TFS was shooting The Incredible Hulk, we had 850 people a week working there. We’re all desperately afraid we’ll lose that opportunity for work. The new studios aren’t enough to make up for the loss of TFS. It provides a learning process so trades can start with small entry-level jobs and progress to high-skilled. That movie spent over $2 million just for set decoration, with many custom-made items Electricians, carpenters, more than 70 painters. Consider keeping these lands exactly what they are now.

  9. Q. from Josh: 30 m height: Is that what you think residents want to see or a compromise the OMB will adopt?

    A. There’s no height restriction now, except for five times the area of the lot [meaning there is a height restriction after all]. We want to introduce some predictability. It’s not adopted yet.

  10. Q. from Cindy: My family moved here in 1967 and I’ve always been thrilled with the community feel, little shops. I’m living in the Beach now. My kids go to St. Joseph’s on Leslie. We’d hate to see large-scale retail that would jeopardize those small businesses. [Gives some kind of anecdote about Wal-Mart’s discriminating against MRDD/learning-disabled people, which, if true, is properly a human-rights complaint rather than an anecdote you recount in public in order to feel righteous.]

  11. Q. from Tammy: I was born in Scarborough, moved here eight years ago. I live around Queen and Logan, where once I saw a man pull a gun on another man, and another guy get the shit kicked out of him. Don’t say crime will get worse; it’s already here. [Counters the previous Wal-Mart anecdote.] The little shops are great; they’re unique. They offer specialty things and they will be saved because there are still people who want those things. Starbucks moved in and I didn’t stop getting my coffee at Dougie’s. I don’t see anybody not going to Coffee Time anymore. I don’t see people not going to Mercury. People are gonna stay loyal to where they shop at. Obviously there’s no dedication to the neighbourhood if you’re that worried about it.

  12. Q. from Jaclyn: Lived here five years. I’m a student, and I don’t have my high-school or college diploma. It’s hard to get a job in the area because I don’t meet their criteria. Wal-Mart would give students jobs so they could survive. Worrying about little shops? Awesome.

[Following questions untranscribed. I left at 20:00.]

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.01.11 12:47. 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:
https://blog.fawny.org/2008/01/11/southofeastern2/

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