PLANNING PROCESS HEADS-UP:

Starting this week, City Planning is holding a series of open houses/public feedback meetings on the ‘Development Permit System’ (DPS), a pro-growth fast-track (45-day) development approval process which combines zoning amendment, minor variance, and site-plan processes. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that the DPS would be a “fundamental shift” in how planning is done in Toronto. For City info and meeting dates, see the RHS column here:

http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=3b2cd9e27ac93410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextfmt=default

Please try to attend at least one of the meetings, and encourage others you know to attend or otherwise weigh in on this significant initiative.

Details for the downtown meeting one week from today are as follows:

Saturday, March 22
Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge St, Toronto
Open House: 10:30am to 12:30pm
Public Meeting: 12:30 – 2:30pm

Opinionated overview:

The DPS is being pushed as a pro-active, area-based alternative to site-by-site planning. Sounds great, right? But there are concerns about the (largely untested) DPS process. The 45-day timeline is made possible by means of “plug-and-chug” performance-based by-laws, which necessarily elide nuances of site-specific context. The subsumption of the minor variance process means that areas under a DPS will automatically get “up-zoned”—and that could just be the beginning of the “reset” in zoning that City Planning decides the target area should undergo. After a DPS by-law is passed for an area, then for 5 years there is no requirement for public notice or consultation for any development application, and residents and other third parties lose (while developers retain) their right to appeal specific application decisions to the OMB; inclining the process in the developer’s favor. Removal of public rights of consult and appeal is especially problematic given the uncertainty associated with specific applications of the performance-based bylaws, and the possibility of Section 37-style “tradeoffs” for increased height or density. The short timeline means that DPS decisions will typically be delegated to Planning staff—hence not just the public but their representatives are effectively removed from site-based planning in their communities. Moreover, there are existing pro-active area-based planning processes (e.g., Area Studies and associated Official Plan Amendments, as we just got for Ossington) that do not involve removal of public rights of consultation and appeal. One might also ask: what’s the big rush in implementing this “fundamental shift”? Just 4 open house/feedback meetings for the entire GTA—really?

Further information is available at the following links:

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions.

Best wishes,
Jessica

bid on ossington

mike layton in the house to auction off such goodies as —

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— friday, 2 may — 9pm — lower ossington theatre (100 ossington) cabaret room

fun!raising auction and community jamboree

— plus, say ‘hello, stranger’ to some warm weather by boogie-ing with some ossingtonians!!!!!!!

November 16 was a historic day for Ossington!

Ossington is now at the top level—with Kensington, Chinatown, Yorkville, the Annex, Church-Wellesley—of Toronto’s places with fully recognized and protected character.

City Council amended Toronto’s Official Plan—the legal document which directs what should, can, and can’t be built, all over the city—to now discuss Ossington specifically. (Areas like Kensington and just a few others have that recognition.)

Now the Official Plan has hard, specific, legal regulations for buildings on Ossington. (Regulations that *have to* be followed—because developers will never get a “waiver” from the OMB.)

The new regulations are pretty darn good (read them here)—some hilites:

* Retail small for local business, with no shops bigger than Böhmer (we love Böhmer!—it’s just for comparison of the size)

* Jobs and daytime life on the street, with upper floor offices and workspaces

* Lowrise, with 4 storeys on 7/8ths of Ossington, option to 5 in “Area 2″

But as important is the principle: you all have always known Ossington was great—now it has the seal of approval that will keep it alive, thriving, and exciting: and let Ossington be Ossington and do what it does.

This is all thanks to all of us—hard work, dedication, commitment, passion; seeing the good in the offbeat and knowing the impossible had to happen.

(A big shoutout is due to Mike Layton, who always did exactly the right thing at the right time—and to the hard-working folks at City Planning, who were sensitive and wise: who listened to what we were saying and heard; looked at what we showed them and saw.)

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing for the “109OZ” proposal ran from 5 to 15 November 2013 — eight business days because Remembrance Day interposed.

The Applicant for the “109OZ” proposal had appealed on the grounds that the City had failed to decide on the proposal within the statutory 120 day deadline (the appeal was about 150 days after the application; everyone knows that 120 days is too little for the City to carry out other legally mandated duties, so it is customary to wait over a year before this kind of appeal).

City Council had directed that any settlement would have to include all parties to the case: the OCA, the City, and the Appellant; and that the City would remain in opposition unless there was a settlement.

The Appellant had advanced certain proposals that, in the view of the OCA Negotiation Steering Committee, did not adequately respond to the very strong community mandate to Keep Ossington Lowrise — and to conserve Ossington’s great historic character, juice its vibrant business community, respect the adjacent residents, and protect local schoolchildren, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The OCA advanced to the Appellant a proposal that the Steering Committee regarded as going a long way for these goals, while also including various creative out-of-the-box features that (though profitable for developers and good for communities) are blocked by various hamhanded City regulations and are therefore unattainable in circumstances outside an OMB settlement. It got zero traction — which did not surprise me, inasmuch as the Appellant seems to have been fixated on a six storey building from the start.

The adjudicating OMB Member was Jason Chee-Hing (who had in 2011 approved the settlement at 41 Ossington).

The order of proceedings went: Appellant calls their witnesses; City calls theirs; OCA calls ours; closing arguments in that order with Appellant getting the last word.

Appellant was represented by David Bronskill and called as witnesses J Craig Hunter (a planner), Anne McIlroy (an urban designer who oversaw the production of the famous /Avenues and Mid-rise Buildings Study/), David Bouwsma (who uses a CAD program to make pictures of where a hypothetical building would cast shadows on various days and times), and Alun Owen (who counts cars and pedestrians crossing various places at various times, snaps pictures of trucks making tight turns makes speculative estimates of when people would use cars and trucks for a hypothetical building, and uses a CAD program to make pictures of vehicles of various sizes making tight turns).

City was represented by Amanda Hill and called as witnesses Franco Romano (an independent outside planner) and Ran Chen (an urban designer from City Planning).

OCA was represented by Charles Campbell and called as witnesses Terry Mills (a planner who wrote the /Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review/, Arris Strategy Studios), Thomas Rees (City Planning), Olga Ferreira (our neighbour on Givins), and Jessica Wilson (OCA President).

A few Participants also spoke: Penny Carter (our neighbour on Argyle Place), the Coalition of Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Associations (incarnated in Eileen Denny, CORRA Vice Chair), and [***].

The Appellant took up the first four days. The City called its witnesses on Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week; Wednesday morning was set aside for Participants. OCA called witnesses on Thursday. Closing arguments were presented on Friday the 15th.

Beyond these sparse generalities, an immense amount of detail remains to be reported. I confine myself to illustrative anecdotes, the flow of procedural skulduggery, amusing zings, and potentially important moments.

Bronskill’s opening statement was intended to suggest that we are nuts and should be ignored while City and Appellant work things out responsibly.

The first witnesses, Craig Hunter and Anne McIlroy, generally acknowledged that the street has distinctive character in large part contributed by the predominance of two- and three-storey heritage potential buildings. Hunter also acknowledged that the buildings across the street were unlikely to be demolished any time soon. McIlroy, who recounted how miserable the apartments of her hip youth were by comparison with today’s more advanced apartments, was more optimistic that they would be demolished soon.

Bouwsma’s primary contribution was the concept of a ‘shadow increment’ depicted as a bright yellow patch and constituted by the difference between the proposed building and the mereological sum of (i) an as-of-right (but, as Amanda Hill pointed out, Site Plan Approval-unfriendly) “donut” building and (ii) the angular plane envelope described in City Planning’s problematic May 18 rejection report. Campbell exposed Bouwsma’s qualification to pronounce only on what a certain shadow would be and not on whether that shadow would be OK.

Owen’s testimony was notable for its neglect to assess the traffic impacts of development of all /Area 2/ at the scale proposed. Owen thought that was OK because the traffic isn’t too high yet; when the building where the traffic is too high gets proposed, then it will be turned back. Needless to say, the impacts Owen considered were only incremental impacts, and he proposed no absolute threshold. Also amusing was the revelation that Owen’s car counters had been snoozing on the job.

At this point, late Friday afternoon, the procedural skulduggery — not entirely unexpected — rolled out. The Appellant had changed the proposal! The new one made certain inconsequential modifications to the height and massing and gave City Urban Design extensive control over the facade at Site Plan Approval! Now suddenly it is OK with Romano and Chen!

(Chen, no surprise perhaps. But Romano? His witness statement had trashed the height and massing as grossly out of scale. Drop the height by 7% and the massing by 0.5% and now its OK?)

The big tricksy plan to isolate the community is rolling out! Oh noes! What are we gonna do?

Two things: ensure that the direction of Council to oppose the proposal absent any settlement would be respected; ensure that we would bring to the stand Thomas Rees, City Planning’s author of the Ossington Planning Study and proposed Area Specific Official Plan Amendment.

Tuesday morning was taken up with procedural issues: the new plans were presented and Campbell requested (a) an adjournment and (b) that Thomas Rees would be subpoenaed as our witness. The adjournment was refused but the addition of Rees was granted.

Hill also asked some perfunctory questions of Romano and Chen.

Tuesday afternoon, Campbell cross-examined Romano. Romano acknowledged that the new proposal was not consequentially different from the old and that he thought the old proposal was grossly out of scale with the ‘existing context’ — the buildings that are there now. The new proposal is OK, however — because it is in line with the ‘planned context’, which emerged after he filed his witness statement. Namely, the proposed OPA. But the OPA limits to five storeys in /Area 2/? Yeah well six, five, what’s the difference!

My impression was that Romano’s line of reasoning was the object of considerable puzzlement.

I wasn’t there on Wednesday. Neither was Romano, who had booked a trip out of the country starting Wednesday for the rest of the week. My recollection is that Mr Chee-Hing found that decision somewhat anomalous.

Thursday Terry Mills was back on the stand (apparently Campbell had put Mills in chief on Wednesday afternoon), under cross by Bronskill. Mills’s vision of a below 18m building was getting a lot of traction, as were Mills’s concerns about the capacity of the laneway.

Olga Ferreira gave a vivid and clever testimony about the centrality to the community of the Givins vegetable gardens, the constraints on the laneway, and the natural concerns about backyard amenity with 40-some balconies more or less across the street.

Tom Rees kicked major butt. He was unflappable on the importance of preserving Ossington’s character and heritage, on the incompatibility of a six-storey building with that aim, and on the fact that /Mixed-Use Areas/ are not an OP focus for intensification.

Jessica Wilson also kicked major butt. Bronskill attempted to show her up as an ingnant amateur planning fancier, but got outsmarted: on the issue of where the OP says growth is required in general /Mixed-Use Areas/, she got him to reveal as his justification a passage which no planner had ever before mentioned — thereby tipping his hand to Campbell’s Associate Laura Bowman who would go on to write up a killer factum overnight. Bronskill also attempted to show up Wilson as, like, disrespectful or something? I didn’t get what he was trying to do as he read into evidence Wilson’s FB post criticizing Hill’s limited enthusiasm in pursuing the Council direction to oppose the Appeal. Astonishingly — though Bronskill did not read it out loud — the printed post concluded “right now the OMB is our new best friend”. Wow!

Friday morning Bowman showed up with a killer factum — by a huge margin the best thing I’ve read on the law of this stuff — while Bronskill had drank some wine and turned in early. Accordingly, while Bronskill’s summary statement was a bunch of technical legal stuff and debating sophism, Campbell drove home an awesome Jimmy Stewart-like speech on principles. (Hill, by contrast, was reduced to ‘commending’ the opinions of Romano and Chen and getting grilled on whether the City was or wasn’t opposed to the proposal. Friday morning was also marked by extensive questioning of Hunter by Mr Chee-Hing about laneway capacity.) Campbell’s focus was on (i) the extent to which ‘expert’ trumps ‘lay’ opinion on whether an impact is OK, and if so what the point of community consultation is; (ii) the precedential issue about /MU/ versus /Avenue/; (iii) the ‘burden of proof’ question regarding whether Appellant has justified all the requested overage.

At the end, Mr Chee-Hing announced that his decision would be forthcoming in the future — and not the near future.

The OCA has submitted a Heritage Conservation District nomination form for the proposed Ossington Strip district. HCD status is the ultimate in preservation, enjoyed by Queen West (University to Bathurst) and Yorkville as well as a number of neighbourhoods (including Harbord Village, Riverdale, and, who would have anticipated, Rosedale). We believe that Ossington is truly one of the most wonderfully distinctive places in Toronto, and that people know this, which is why it is such a great success as a destination district.

To do the nomination, we wrote up a detailed history of the the area; after that exercise we are even more convinced of the incredibly cool weirdness of our area. (Did you know that this was a meatpacking district until around 1900, with cattle turning left off Ossington onto Bruce, and that the Levack Block was built by a major family in the meat trade, who lived up the street from their stockyard on Givins and eventually built what is now the Maynard Nursing Home as their mansion, on the site of the 1804 house Pine Grove of the Givins family, which in 1884 was celebrated as the oldest house in Toronto, was looted by America in the War of 1812, and …)

The history is pasted in below the fold. Read More

109OZ Info Sheet

  1. Upcoming Community Council meeting info
  2. Basic facts about 109OZ
  3. Impacts on communities: school, bike, business, resident, Toronto

1. Upcoming Community Council meeting info

Date and time: Tuesday, June 18, 11:45am

Where: City Hall, 100 Queen St. West, Committee Room 1

Item number: 2013.TE25.18

Link to item notice: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2013.TE25.18

Link to Direction Report mentioned in notice: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-58823.pdf

For Discussion of the implications of the Direction Report: http://individual.utoronto.ca/jmwilson/DR_Concerns.doc

The recommendation is for the City to negotiate a bit, but says 6 STOREYS IS FINE. Planning is treating Ossington as if it were an “Avenue” like Dundas or Eglinton, relying partly on the “planning fiction” that 17.5m Ossington will someday be widened to 20m (the minimum “Avenue” width) which would require tearing down every building on Ossington.

Luckily, one of the primary functions of Community Council is to amend motions for submission to City Council, and it appears that Councillor Layton is going to introduce an amendment in order to support the community’s position.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Please call or email Mike Layton ASAP and express to him the importance of supporting the community and getting the number of storeys down on 109OZ.  Phone: 416-392-4009  Email: mailto:councillor_layton@toronto.ca

2. Please attend the Community Council Meeting June 18.  A bit turnout can make all the difference (http://www.torontosun.com/2013/05/14/councillors-shoot-down-humbertown-development).  You can either speak, give a PowerPoint Presentation, or use the Overhead Projector.  If you plan to give a Powerpoint Presentation, bring your own computer and make some backup paper printouts of your slides just in case—if there are technical difficulties, the Overhead Projector can project your printout.

3) If you cannot attend, email your comments to Community Council at teycc@toronto.ca, citing “2013.TE25.18 on June 18, 2013 for distribution to Community Council members” (or see link below).

Even better: DO BOTH: send in your written comments or your presentation in advance and THEN go to the meeting and deliver them in person. This page gives more information about written and delivered comments:

http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/tmmis/have-your-say.htm

If attending in person, then it is best to register before 4:30 the day before, but you can also sign up at the meeting. One can submit comments or register to speak by clicking the ‘submit comments’ or ‘register’ links at the top of this page:

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2013.TE25.18

2. Basic info about 109OZ

  • 103-109-111 Ossington, near Argyle, centre of Ossington strip
  • 21.5m (25m with “mechanical penthouse”): 6 “official” storeys, but really height of 8-storey building. Existing zoning is 4-storeys, 14m.
  • 9 storefronts wide, occupies large footprint of large lot
  • No ground level green space
  • 86 units, no family size
  • 70 underground parking units off of Argyle Place
  • 3.9 density, existing zoning is 2.5
  • One single 12,000sqft ‘AAA’ retail space (i.e., chain store)
  • For overhead views giving sense of size, see http://www.scribd.com/doc/109555668/views
  • For ARRIS Strategy Studio Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review, see http://arris.ca/OCA/

3. Impacts on communities

SCHOOL

  • 70 cars and heavy truck loading in this building
  • Argyle Place laneway mouth only 5.5m wide
  • Argyle Street only 6m wide from parking lane to curb
  • Makes for a very tight turn during morning rush across a sidewalk where children walk to school
  • Pattern of one-way streets means traffic pressure on school loading area and children’s routes to school (such as Bruce and Argyle)
  • If the endgame is the whole block goes midrise, that means ballpark 200 more cars using that laneway
  • Unit makeup is not inviting to families – doesn’t increase school vitality
  • Loss of sky views from west-facing playgrounds and classrooms
  • Increased dog urine and feces in the playground
  • Construction dust

BIKE

  • Argyle Street is part of city’s Bikeway system: Argyle-Robinson Bikeway runs from Brock to Bathurst, plugging West End Bikeway “black hole”
  • Argyle Street only 6m wide from parking lane to curb for one lane of traffic and one contraflow bike lane; Argyle Place laneway mouth only 5.5m wide
  • 70 cars and heavy truck loading in this building
  • If the endgame is the whole block goes midrise, that means ballpark 200 more cars using that laneway
  • The /Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review/ calculates that growth on Ossington realistically makes for at most 1/1000 of the city’s total population target (which is more than met already anyway; and the city already has a condo glut anyway)
  • The Official Plan calls for promoting “active transport” like cycling
  • Disrupting this crucial link the Bikeway network is a far-reaching effect; the tiny gain in density can be easily recovered in a less strategic location

BUSINESS

  • Ossington is a character area. It is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets, and the historic center of the West End village. We should be proud of our local history rather than making everything cookie cutter.
  • People come here in part because of the great business community but also in part because it feels good as a place to hang out.
  • That is because of the century old streetscape and because it feels like a public square. In Europe, they have main streets with midrise buildings, but they also have public squares, where people go to hang out. Ossington has that same chilled out feeling. Given that it is a street rather than a square, why is that? My guess is: in both case, you have open sky views — it’s no different from going to the park.
  • You wouldn’t want to hang out on Queen at Ossington, with the Shopper’s and the Tim Horton’s. You wouldn’t want to hang out on Bay Street, or King and Shaw. Midrise is inevitably sterile and oppressive.
  • Yes, the building would mean more people. But at most 100 — divide that by the 26 restaurants & that means a drop in the bucket for you.
  • Does it seem like a good balance, to get 100 more people on the street, against disrupting the character, which draws people from around the city?

RESIDENT

  • This is your neighbourhood. The new building is not about neighbourhood building, the environment, or respect. It is just about profit.
  • Ossington is a character area. It is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets, and the historic center of the West End village. We should be proud of our local history rather than making everything cookie cutter.
  • This would be a looming citadel right at the heart of our neighbourhood. So long historic Trinity-Bellwoods vibe, hello ego-tripping condo stack.
  • Think of the block of three buildings to the north, with Golden Turtle/Rua Vang. This building would be more than twice as high, three times as wide, and go back twice as far. That means it is the size of *twelve* 3-storefront-wide 3-storey buildings stuck together. That might be fine on Queen or Dundas, but on Ossington that is ridiculous.
  • The community has spoken: loud, clear, multiply, and as close to with one voice as it gets. The Official Plan says they are supposed to listen.

TORONTO

  • You care about the environment, and so do I. You dislike auto dependence, and so do I. You like Paris, and so do I.
  • But what is great about cities is that they are not all the same, and that each city has individual parts that are different from each other. Paris has the low-rise Marais. London has Camden Town. New York has Greenwich Village and Williamsburg. And Toronto has Ossington (and Little Italy, the Annex, Kensington, Chinatown, Queen West, Queen East, Cabbagetown).
  • Ossington is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets. It is the historic center of a West End village. It used to be where Dundas Street started, but when Dundas got integrated into the city grid about 100 years ago, Ossington got cut off. As a result, Ossington is like a time capsule. Toronto is uneven on its history. Why not make this a case where we get it right?
  • The Official Plan doesn’t say “pack in as many people into as little space as possible”. It has a lot of different priorities. Density is one, but so is preserving character, memory, history, and context. In general the OP aims to find the places where density can go beneficially, to preserve other places. Ossington seems like a clear case worth preserving if possible.
  • As the /Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review/ calculates, maxing out population on Ossington would only add 1/1000 of Toronto’s total population target.
  • Toronto has already met its population target many times over.
  • The Official Plan calls for a diversity of types of housing, noting that there is already a glut of condos. Most new population is to come from immigration, meaning families, meaning condos don’t even help.
  • There are thirteen areas with Official Plan Amendments to protect lowrise character: Kensington, Chinatown, Baldwin Village, St Joseph Cottages, Yonge-Gerrard, Church-Wellesley, Bloor-Walmer, Annex/Old Yorkville, Yorkville, Yonge-Rosedale South, Yonge-Rosedale North, Avenue-Pears, and Casa Loma. Almost all are on the subway; all are more than 1km closer to the subway than Ossington. Most have as their primary merit that they are upscale. None are West of Kensington. Ossington, a West end destination district, deserves this kind of consideration.
  • Planning law in Ontario is weird, in ways that are demanding on the community and require all decisions to be approached by the City carefully and with great judiciousness. All of us are in this together. Ossington is not designated for growth by the Official Plan, there is no policy reason to require growth on Ossington, and there is plenty of policy reason to preserve Ossington. Nevertheless, City Planning seems to have jumped the track. Why think that won’t happen in your neighbourhood real soon?

ohsdrThe OCA is very proud to announce the release of the Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review — click the image, or click here, to read it. The OAHSDR was released to the members of Community Council yesterday, and the OCA is now making it available to the general public.

The OAHSDR was prepared by Arris Strategy Studio for the OCA. The principal author of the OAHSDR is Terry Mills, BArch, Registered Professional Planner. One of Terry’s many accomplishments is establishing and running The Midtown Plan, a framework tying together the many different players with a hand in the complexity of Yonge–Eglinton. Suffice to say that Terry is a bigshot renowned for seeing the patterns in chaos.

The OAHSDR makes a great read for its sensitive description of the character of the area, especially against a background of extensive historical research. The Review proposes a certain profile for the widely discussed “109OZ” site — basically five storeys with a 28 degree angular plane. My fellow planning geeks will be engrossed for many hours.

Here is the executive summary of the OAHSDR judgements pertaining to “109OZ”:

INAPPROPRIATE AND UNSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

  • It is a full-on Avenues solution in a non-Avenues context.
  • It is out of scale and character, diminishing the significance of buildings and spaces.
  • It has a character, texture and treatment that conflicts with the existing urban grain.
  • It is unsustainable, and cannot be readily replicated elsewhere on Ossington Avenue.
  • It involves setting precedents, that can only be used as parts in other types of projects.
  • It creates adverse impacts on the adjacent Neighbourhood, not currently experienced.
  • It creates undesirable conditions of overview & overshadowing on the Neighbourhood.
  • It does not pass the tests of fit, respect and improvement:
  1. interlacing into the Ossington Avenue High Street’s existing context
  2. incorporating compatibilities appropriate to future increments of development
  3. contributing to the maturation of Ossington Avenue’s streetscape, and locality
  • It does not incorporate Ossington Avenue’s memories, but rather extinguishes them.

Cover letter below the jump: Read More