Fight for the Leaside you want

Douglas Obright
Douglas Obright [Photo: Paddy Duncan]

“If we are to continue to enjoy the attributes which prompted us to move to Leaside, we must be engaged and proactive both individually and collectively”

Because we face major planning challenges, we need to think of aspects of Leaside that we value and how those aspects might be preserved as the community deals with an ongoing onslaught of new development proposals.

That was the message delivered by Douglas Obright, Leaside resident and Registered Professional Planner, in his keynote presentation to the Leaside Property Owners’ Association (LPOA) annual general meeting on Nov. 25.

To drive home this message he challenged attendees to think of how those aspects of Leaside – low density, small town feel, leafy streets, Georgian Revival and Tudor Revival homes, consistent streetscapes and setbacks, good schools, recreation and community facilities, peacefulness, cleanliness, safety, walkability and bikeability, ease of access to public transportation and downtown – might be impacted by new development.

Leaside Map
Click to enlarge [map courtesy of City of Toronto]
He provided an overview of recent changes introduced by the City of Toronto, including special policies and rezonings as part of the Eglinton Connects Plan for intensification along the Eglinton corridor:

  • special policies under the Official Plan facilitating mid-rise development around the Bayview- Eglinton intersection (1), and for townhouse development on the south side of Eglinton between Leaside High School and Hanna Rd. (2).     (Official Plan Amendment No. 253) and
  • rezonings to permit mixed-use, mid-rise development to a maximum of between 22.5 metres (seven storeys) and 25.5 metres (eight storeys) along Eglinton between Sutherland Dr. and Laird Dr. (3), and to a maximum of 25.5 metres (eight storeys) on the north-east corner of Laird and Eglinton (4) (Zoning By-law 1030-2014).

He spoke to several private sector led rezonings and development applications:

  • a major five-building proposal along the west side of Brentcliffe between Eglinton and Vanderhoof (5),
  • the approved Upper House condominium development at 25 Malcolm (formerly 2 Laird Dr.) (6),
  • a proposed seven-storey seniors’ condominium and eight-storey rental retirement building at 146-150 Laird (7), and
  • an eight-unit townhouse development with a single family dwelling, on the NE Corner of McRae Dr. and Sutherland Dr. (8).

(Since that meeting, the LPOA has learned of a pending application for a nine-storey, 100-unit condominium at the corner of Southvale and the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens access road, until recently the site of Homeculture and a catering business (9).

It was noted that the LPOA appealed the Eglinton Connects Official Plan changes and rezonings to the OMB, as well as provided input into almost all planning applications in the area.

In addition, the Eglinton Connects Plan had proposed that a special study of the Laird Focus Area (the lands bounded by Eglinton, Laird, Vanderhoof and Aerodrome Cres.) (10) be undertaken.

Apparently this study has now been deferred, which is of concern because it would have provided planning context for the massive proposal along the west side of Brentcliffe between Eglinton and Vanderhoof submitted to the city in 2013.

A further concern is the possibility that city Planning department actions may be forthcoming on another Eglinton Connects proposal to redesignate from Neighbourhood to Apartment Neighbourhood lands along the north side of Eglinton from just east of Laird to well east of Brentcliffe (11).

Other nearby approved applications were flagged as likely to have an impact on the community: the two-storey Whole Foods complex under construction at 1860 Bayview (12) and the SmartCentre North development approved between Wicksteed and Vanderhoof (13).

The Costco retail warehouse and gas bar proposed for 42-46 Overlea Blvd. (14), and the Brown Group proposal currently emerging for the west side of Bayview between Soudan and Hillsdale (15) were also noted, as was the uncertain future for the Centre for Mental Health (CAMH) property at 175 Brentcliffe (16).

These larger scale development applications currently under consideration are in addition to ongoing single family dwelling redevelopment, and pose a host of planning challenges for the community.

Assuming most of these applications proceed, the challenges include: determining appropriate heights, massing and setbacks; dealing with pressure on traffic, water and sewer infrastructure, schools, parks, and other community facilities; and addressing detailed site plan issues such as parking, snow storage, garbage, loading facilities, privacy, lighting, noise and similar concerns.

Adding to all this is the turmoil to travellers and residents associated with the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit construction that is expected to extend to 2020 and beyond.

Obright encouraged the city to find better mechanisms to involve residents in major planning policy decisions, to actually respond to and address residents’ concerns in their staff reports, to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of the Leaside Business Park, to monitor and control traffic flows and enforce related regulations, and to minimize unnecessary contractor interruptions on local streets.

In addition, residents were encouraged to support the emerging Bayview–Leaside Business Improvement Area (BIA), the merchants along Eglinton, the Heritage Conservation District studies, and local tree planting and parkland acquisitions initiatives.

He also encouraged residents to support the LPOA as an effective voice for the community on planning matters.

In closing, he recommended that the LPOA develop a close working relationship with Jon Burnside, Ward 26’s new councillor.

“If we are to continue to enjoy the attributes which prompted us to move to Leaside, we must be engaged and proactive both individually and collectively,” he said at the end.

“The future of our neighbourhood is up to each of us doing our part.”

Obright’s presentation to the LPOA can be viewed at

About Geoff Kettel 222 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.