Well, the OMB decision on 109OZ has come in—interestingly, dated the day of the election—and Jason Chee-Hing, the OMB Board member, ruled that the revised proposal that Reserve submitted during the hearing can go forward. The revised proposal is still 6 storeys, which is obviously disappointing. But it was nonetheless very good that the OCA was a party to the appeal, for 3 reasons. Moreover, the story of the appeal isn’t over yet.

First and most importantly, our detailed involvement in this case, and the historically and culturally sensitive “Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review” written by our planner, Terry Mills, had a concrete positive impact on the final draft of the Ossington Official Plan Amendment (OPA). The Ossington OPA is the first low-scale OPA on the entire West side: 4 storey max on all of Ossington between Queen and Dundas, with a 5 storey max in “Area 2” (East side of Ossington, between Argyle and Bruce). This OPA is huge: it means that we are very unlikely to have to fight this kind of time-consuming and expensive battle again, and more generally, that the character and culture of the Ossington strip and surrounding neighbourhood will be preserved for the foreseeable future.

Second, as a result of going to the OMB, Reserve produced a better proposal in several respects—this was the “surprise” 6-storey revision submitted at the end of the first week of the hearing, which led the City’s team (which by intent of Council direction was supposed to fight any 6-storey proposal) to cave, leaving the OCA to fight on our own. The height now is reduced from 21.5m to 20m, the mechanical penthouse is moved and the rear angular planes adjusted to improve shadow impact on rear houses, and—very importantly—the one very large retail space is broken up to 3 smaller spaces, with a max retail floor size of 500sq m. Chee-Hing also added as a condition of approval that a 1.5m pedestrian walkway be placed behind the building, for the safety of those walking down the alley (he also recommends that the City explore extending this the entire length of the alley).

Third, fighting this proposal was the right thing to do, for the sake of the character and culture of Ossington, and in hopes of improving the serious impacts on our neighbours and friends. It was also the right thing to do in hopes of getting the City and the Province to uphold the Official Plan, whose motto is “Grow but Protect”, and which explicitly directs mid-rise intensification to broad, long, transit-thoroughfare “Avenues” in need of “reurbanization”, as opposed to narrow, flourishing, culturally significant main streets like Ossington. Having read the decision, I remain convinced that our Official Plan-based reasoning is correct. We are clearly correct that Ossington is (notwithstanding the testimony of for-hire “expert” Anne McIllroy) nothing like an Avenue (and thanks to our OPA will never be like an Avenue), in which case there is no good reason for treating it like one. And we are also correct in rejecting the claim that Ossington is (or was, prior to the OPA) designated for mid-rise intensification just in virtue of being a mixed-use area. We originally heard this “mixed use” justification from Francis Kwashie, who was unable to point us to any passages in the Official Plan substantiating it, rather saying that it follows from reading the Official Plan “as a whole”. Chee-Hing reproduces the “mixed-use” justification and its fuzzy “overall” location in the Official Plan. Such vague and unsubstantiated reasoning is uncompelling. At the end of the day, then, there remains no clear reason for allowing this proposal to be built.

Issues of Official Plan law aside, Chee-Hing’s decision appears to contain two errors of fact, which may serve as the basis for an application to review the decision. We are looking into this, and will keep you posted.

One last word of thanks to the very large number of people who have invested time, energy, money, and psychological support throughout this long, yet informative and exciting, process. We won what really mattered—that is, the West side’s first low-scale protective OPA. We have a Heritage Conservation District application in progress. Perhaps most importantly: as a result of this proposal, we came together as never before as a community. Thanks for being a part of it!

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:

Link to Direction Report mentioned in notice:

For Discussion of the implications of the Direction Report:

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.



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:

2. Please attend the Community Council Meeting June 18.  A bit turnout can make all the difference (  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, 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:

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:

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
  • For ARRIS Strategy Studio Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review, see

3. Impacts on communities


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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?


  • 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.


  • 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?

at present the west end does not have a bikeway system in any reasonable sense


an ambitious plan fixes this:


South of Harbord, the East-West options are (2) dodge car doors on College (3) cruise pleasantly up Argyle-Robinson.

The proposal for Argyle is for a “contra-flow” bike lane: in addition to the existing one-way traffic, an additional lane would run bikes the opposite direction of traffic. The Toronto Bike Lane Design Guidelines for contra-flow bike lanes look like this:


Argyle between Ossington and Givins is 6m wide thanks to the row of silver maples planted there around 2003. Argyle also at present has a parking lane. The street depicted in 2B8 is 1.3m wider than Argyle. Apparently the “absolute minimum” width for contra-flow is 1.5m (see p10). Still, 1.1m need to come from somewhere. But where!?!?!?

— ah! the solution is blindingly obvious: convert Argyle into a traffic sewer for midrise condos and chain stores!!!!!


I (Jessica Wilson, representing the OCA) went to a pre-application meeting hosted by Layton at City Hall yesterday in re the development of the lands currently housing MOCCA (the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art), the Edward Day Gallery, Mutt Animation Studio, as well as the character building to the east currently housing the Clint Roesnisch Gallery.

Alan Saskin, President of UrbanCorp, and Prishram Jain from TACT Architecture presented their current proposal. Saskin is the developer behind Westside Lofts and several other large developments in the Queen W. Triangle, Liberty Village, and elsewhere across the city; Jain has worked with UrbanCorp and other companies on these sorts of buildings, and in particular is the designer of 2 Gladstone, going up across the street from the Gladstone Hotel.

Anyway, to the proposal.  Where there is presently a primary art and culture node in the West End, a beckoning opening into a museum of contemporary art abutted by two of Toronto’s best art galleries, a stage for Nuit Blanche and other events, framed by sky and a huge ever-changing mural—is now envisioned a 9-storey, 26.9m (really, 31.9m, with mechanical penthouse), 151-unit mid-rise condominium building, currently designed with only a single large retail space, spanning more than 1/3 of the block between Shaw and Givins (width of 9 average storefronts) and going twice as deep, involving a gesture at brick vernacular for the first couple of stories before rising up in typical glass box fashion.

The height and density limits—not just the existing height limit of 18m, but the performance standards of the Avenues and Mid-rise Building Study (AMRBS), are grossly violated, left and right.  So, for example, the AMRBS is adamant that the height of a mid-rise on an Avenue (which Queen is) cannot exceed the width of the street right-of-way (ROW).  Queen’s ROW is 20m; the proposed building is 26.9m/31.9m, going beyond the AMRBS guidelines by two additional storeys (this in an area where the average building is 2 storeys).  The building crashes through the back and especially the front angular planes.  There is no side-wise stepping back to adjacent residences on Shaw, who will be looking at the side of a building 5 storeys high.  There are no family-sized units (115 units are 1BR of around 700sqft, around 29 are 2BR of around 820sqft).  No ground level green space, no courtyard.  No cross-ventilation in the majority of the tiny single-window units.  (As Ken Greenberg said, “These are essentially extended-stay hotels”.)  Due to laneway constraints, there will be a driveway for the hundred or so cars and service vehicles with entry and exit onto Queen.  Both the built form and the inevitable chain retail will be grossly out of keeping with the distinctive independent retail old-school character of W Queen W business district (recently deemed the 18th most “stylish” business district in the world).  Etc., etc.

Moreover, some of the most serious potential impacts were not even mentioned or discussed.  At the meeting, the architect’s drawings just showed affected properties to the east and west of the property.  I was concerned about the impact on the residential properties in these locations, but I just looked at the location on Google Maps and see that the primary residential impact concerns properties to the North.  Nearly every house on the east side of Givins and the west side of Shaw, South of Givins-Shaw school, will be affected by way of shadow, blocking of sky, and/or loss of privacy by (I estimate) close to 100 balconies overlooking their backyards.  The shadow impact will be especially bad since the proposed building is directly to the South of these properties.

The architect’s response to height and density overage concerns was to highlight the depth and large size of the lot (though why a large lot should be allowed to have a larger building that will then even more intrude on the surrounding low-rise landscape is unclear to me) and to say that the 1-1 height-ROW mid-rise guidelines reflect the supposition that there are buildings on both sides of the street (in the present case a CAMH park is across the street).  In response to concerns about affecting character his response was to note that W. Queen W. is not an officially designated “character area”.  As noted, the primary impact on residents on Givins and Shaw was not even mentioned.  The developer’s typical response to requests to make changes in some way responding to the various concerns was to say “No, we’re not going to do that”.  And though Saskin didn’t make the sort of overt threats that Shelley Fenton of Reserve Properties did at our first meeting with him, Saskin did make sure to say that even though he (admittedly) had been saying ‘No’ to everything, he might be able to adjust here and there (e.g., with respect to the retail space—an easy “compromise”); but if he ran into too much opposition, he would find it more convenient to just go to the OMB and “take his chances” on the design as it stands.

So, here we go again.  A building in blatant non-conformity to both existing and planned context, completely alien to the character of the area, that will clearly negatively impact dozens of residents, a developer and architect who are quite used to getting their way, and City officials that, if past and recent history is any indication, are completely ineffective at maintaining the integrity of our long-standing cultural, residential and business district communities.  “Art and Design District”?  Not for long.

The community spoke loud and clear, in the Visioning Process, the Petition, and in hundreds of communications to Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton and City Planning (we just love you guys!): Keep Ossington Lowrise to preserve the cool character, stay compatible with the neighbourhood, avoid clogging our walkways and bikeways with traffic, and protect the good jobs at good wages in our light industrial buildings (click for the Community Visioning Study plan City Planning must take as input).

City Planning agreed … sorta. On their first draft of an Official Plan Amendment, Ossington stays lowrise … EXCEPT a carveout for King West North Area 2 (east side of Ossington, Bruce to Argyle) … coincidentally, the part real estate speculators want for midrise (click for the first draft Official Plan Amendment from City Planning—the Area 2 carveout is principle f(ii) on the sixth-to-last page).

Eh? Keep Ossington Lowrise = Keep Area 2 Lowrise: the carveout for real estate speculators is ridiculous not sound planning.

Make some noise. City Planning is taking input on their first draft through January 31.

We’ve made it easy for you to badger express your opinion to Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton and City Planning, either by using our pre-filled text or with your own message. Keep Area 2 Lowrise, yo.

Two ways to insta-email Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton and City Planning:

  1. click to go through your mailer
  2. cut-paste the following text into the comment form below:

    Dear Councillor Layton and City Planning,

    I write to oppose Planning’s draft Area 2 principles, applying to the east side of Ossington between Argyle and Bruce.

    The goals supporting the Area 1 principles applying to the rest of Ossington—preserving Ossington’s character and protecting its neighborhood communities—also apply to Area 2.

    Area 2 is at the centre of the Ossington Strip.  Replacing the nice brick buildings here with a block of midrises would undermine Ossington’s character and harm 50 residences on Givins, Argyle, and Bruce. The draft propposal violates sound planning principles putting higher buildings at the perimeter and not the core of a lowrise area.

    Area 2 contains valuable light industrial uses that provide good jobs at good wages for many in the community, add daytime life to the streets, and are a crucial part of Ossington’s character and history.

    Area 2 abuts an important pedestrian and bike corridor, for kids walking to Givins-Shaw elementary school and cyclists using the Argyle-Robinson Bikeway. Midrises in Area 2 will bring 100s of cars and trucks across the path of these travelers.

    Preserving Ossington doesn’t mean trading good jobs at good wages for condos, doesn’t mean trading in unique old buildings for generic big new buildings that dominate over the whole neighbourhood from its very centre, and doesn’t mean undermining the safety of kids and cyclists.

    We can triple density on Ossington within the lowrise limits. Put the community before real estate speculators: Keep Ossington Lowrise = Keep Area 2 Lowrise.

    Sincerely yours,