March 2014 Letters

A challenge to debate Leaside development

Bob Murphy
Bob Murphy may not live in Leaside but if home is where the heart is Bob’s home is definitely right here. It has been that way since he played baseball years ago at Talbot Park. While playing with Leaside kids at Talbot he came to understand and to share our feelings about this community and our desire to preserve its physical character. Bob Murphy still understands and shares those values with us. ~ Allan Redway, McRae Dr.

Will Ashworth has it all wrong.

To start with Yonge and Eglinton, there are more than 500 floors of condos in the process. The Yonge subway is beyond capacity. There isn’t space on local streets or in local schools.

The downtown relief line is at least 15 years off and before that an LRT will dump more riders on the Yonge line.

It makes one wonder what it is our planners are doing that actually involves planning.

Commuters will find a way, short of turn restrictions that will diminish the access of Leasiders to their own homes, to shortcut on Leaside streets not only during LRT construction, but also after the planners have put in the bicycle lanes recommended in the Eglinton Connects report.

The Big Move, at Section 1.4, cites climate change, at 1.3 it cites gridlock. But there is nothing in the Big Move to estimate the tonnage of emissions to be poured into the environment because the ideological planners are hell-bent to build a midtown LRT without making suburban transit improvements preparatory to Eglinton.

Isn’t that what planners are supposed to do? Prevent and not create traffic jams?

John Sewell estimated it would take a 7.5 percent property tax increase to maintain service levels with the new density. Ashworth’s assertion that Leaside is underpopulated ignores the reality that sprawl continues because developers market the idyllic lifestyle of sprawl.

If we hope to compete with those who would build exclusive housing on farmland we must maintain low densities in our most desirable neighbourhoods.

The Places to Grow Act defines its purpose, at Section 1(6): “To promote a rational and balanced approach to decisions about growth that builds on community priorities, strengths, and opportunities and makes efficient use of infrastructure.”

What is there in any of the development  between Duplex and Brentcliffe that meets this standard?

When Leaside Life published excerpts of the SmartCentre’s Impact Study, the excerpts included:

“As the very short distances would not be routlinely practical, the future proportion of pedestrian trips is considered to be understated… trip generation data clearly demonstrates that shopping centre trip rates do not increase in direct proportion to the increase in gross leasable areas. This is the synergy effect based on a two-way trip having more than one purpose with in a large retail commercial development….”

In their Jabberwocky way, they said a person would walk to the Home Depot to carry home his lumber, his bottles of wine and his frozen turkey. Given that they’ve tried to make the same argument about the Costco site one might ask what is it about “big box” these planners do not understand? Will the LRT have roofracks?

The planners have a different opinion about transit and the nature and quality of “intensification”.

An LRT is local, a subway is regional. It does not rely upon a mass of density along the route. It casts a wide web of surface feeder routes to serve a wide area.

If the Bloor-Danforth line were extended to Sheppard, the Sheppard East station would become the terminus for dozens of surface routes in north Scarborough and Markham.

Many people who today take the long, crowded, daily bus ride to Finch station will instead go to Sheppard East Station. This is the closest many of us will get to seeing a “relief line” in our lifetimes. The subway model is more cost effective than the LRT model because we don’t have to build as many of them.

If we hope to achieve a rational, balanced city and reduce gridlock and emissions we need to put the jobs closer to where the commuters live, reducing the length of the daily commute. Either build suburban transit and shift the focus of densification to the suburbs or build more road space.

We need to come to grips with the reality the suburbs are so vast we will not change them without putting all our planning resources to the task of retroplanning them so they are not as dependent on the car.

And so the only way we will reduce emissions and gridlock is by not building developments that will bring more commuter traffic here. The planners believe bicycle lanes will save the planet when, in many cases, they will exacerbate the conditions causing gridlock.

If Will Ashworth or Kathleen Wynne or anyone wants to debate me on this, bring it on.

Bob Murphy
Eglinton East

Ed. NOTE: Leaside Life will try to organize a public debate in May. Let us know if you are interested – email the editor.

A solid wall of seven-storey apartment buildings

I suspect that the proposed office residential development at 939 Eglinton on the south-west corner of Brentcliffe is only the beginning.

The Province of Ontario’s Places to Grow Act, aimed at preserving farm land by preventing urban sprawl, calls for increased residential densities in cities including Toronto. The city of Toronto planners have implemented the province’s marching orders with an Official Plan that calls for increased residential densities on main streets such as Eglinton.

The construction of the rapid transit system now taking place will only accelerate the approval of developments such as 939 Eglinton. As Mr. Ashworth’s article in the February issue of Leaside Life points out, not only the Eglinton intersections at Yonge and Mt. Pleasant but also at Bayview and Laird are targets for similar developments.

Then if the Official Plan is taken to the extreme we could see approvals for a solid line of seven-storey or more apartment buildings on both sides of Eglinton from Yonge to Wilket Creek Park.It’s unlikely that either the city or the OMB will stop approving this type of redevelopment unless the province changes their marching orders.

Alan Redway,
McRae Dr.

Traffic real reason for opposing big developments

I have a problem accepting Will Ashworth’s support of “that big Diamond proposal” and the rationale he offers, related to Bennington Heights and Leaside being underpopulated by  approximately 5,000 people per square kilometre compared to 8,000 in the rest of the ward, and 4,400 for the rest of the city.

The rest of the ward has a lot of high-rises, and our area is primarily single dwelling residential. The Don Valley also runs through it. That’s why people enjoy living here. Leaside also represents a small portion of Ward 26.

Traffic is the real reason for opposing high- rise and big box development within the area. More people equal more cars. Once the Diamond building is done, developers will be eyeing the low rise apartments on Eglinton at Brentcliffe with a view to adding many more floors to them.

Our traffic problem comes from people living far north of Toronto and far east of Toronto who drive to work and play in downtown Toronto.

Within our small area of Ward 26 we have no north/south streets running directly downtown below Eglinton.

This means that most of the Eglinton east/west traffic is therefore diverted through the south Leaside neighbourhood over to Bayview Ave.

Because of this, Leaside faces real traffic challenges even without additional new development. I don’t think that Will Ashworth is thinking about traffic. He is thinking more about the existing business development and having people in the immediate area to support it. As a business owner, I would be more concerned about people not wanting to go into the area because of traffic congestion and lack of parking spots.

It is not unreasonable to challenge condo development within our area and to limit the size. While I agree that traffic is a problem all over, protecting residential pockets within the older parts of our city and attempting to maintain a semblance of quality of life and community is worth it.

A good example of this is to drive south of St. Clair on Yonge St. where there are a number of streets which prohibit direct east/west traffic from between the two main north/south arteries of Avenue Rd. and Yonge St.  Great residential areas that literally cater to the residents who live there in terms of not allowing throughway traffic.

It does, however, mean that St. Clair Ave., which also brings traffic into both Bennington Heights and Leaside, is the main east-west connection between Yonge and Avenue Rd. north of Bloor St. Even Rosedale Valley Rd. brings traffic through Leaside.

At this point there is a valid reason to reopen the Redway Rd. discussion so that the Laird traffic and the Overlea traffic could travel downtown via Redway to the Bayview Extension through a part of the valley where there is no residential development. That’s one way of alleviating traffic flow through Leaside.

My comments are based on living here for 40 years and literally watching the number of cars that pass our home increase every day. It used to be only at rush hours. It is now a constant flow of cars.

Bev Edgar
Southvale Dr. 

City never sought outside planner for the OMB

I have read the article “City couldn’t find planner for 2 Laird fray” in your January issue.

The article indicates, correctly, that city council has voted to reject the staff report concerning this application, and the city will oppose the application at the OMB.
The article meanders into less accurate territory, however, where it goes on to indicate that council “asked for an outside planner to be retained to handle the matter for the city.”

The clear thesis of the article is summed up in the subsequent comment that the city has “not been able to secure a planner to take this on,” and as a result the LPOA decided to do so.

A fair reading of the article leaves one wondering if the city somehow abandoned the file.

The city will be represented at the OMB by an experienced municipal law solicitor working in close collaboration with me, as was always contemplated.

At no time was an outside planner expected to “handle the matter,” on behalf of the city, and the city never sought a planner for that purpose.

At last check, neither the city nor the LPOA had expressed an intention to be represented at the OMB by a planner.

I have been working with the LPOA on this difficult matter since it first raised its head, and I welcome the LPOA’s continued engagement in it. I am confident that, together, we can work to achieve the best result possible for our community.

John Parker
Toronto City Councillor – Ward 26