Spotlight on Leaside heritage – impacts of Bill 23

Across Toronto, our city’s history is told through the unique buildings that line our streets. This is certainly the case in Leaside, where buildings including the Art Deco Garden Court Apartments, Talbot Apartments and the historically significant Agnes Macphail House showcase our neighbourhood’s storied past. Community organizations such as the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society and the Leaside Residents Association continue to do their part to recognize and preserve the character of this historic neighbourhood.

Many Leasiders will have heard me speak about the impacts of recent provincial planning legislation such as Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, which has undermined local decision-making in the development process. One of the lesser known impacts of Bill 23 is that it weakens the Ontario Heritage Act by limiting the City’s ability to protect heritage properties from redevelopment. Namely, Bill 23 has eliminated the protection of “listed” properties – a heritage status that requires the owner to provide advance notice if demolition is planned. This notice offers City staff an opportunity to evaluate the property and recommend formal designation when appropriate. Unfortunately, Bill 23 introduced a two-year deadline for all listed properties to be designated, after which time they would be removed from the provincial register.

In a sobering report to City Council on the impacts of Bill 23, Heritage Planning staff advised that there are currently 3,981 properties listed on the City’s heritage register that have not yet been designated and which will lose their status at the end of 2024. Delisted properties will be subject to a five-year waiting period before they can be added back onto the register, during which time they would be left vulnerable to demolition and redevelopment. A follow-up report from Heritage Planning staff with recommended strategies is expected at City Council before the end of this year.

At City Hall, I have pushed for stronger protections to preserve heritage in Don Valley West, including the impressive architectural history of Leaside. Back in June 2021, following the unpermitted demolition of a listed heritage home in Hogg’s Hollow, I moved a motion directing staff to strengthen and enhance protections for properties that have cultural heritage value or interest. Last year, I supported the community-led nomination to designate the Crestview Apartments, which are a fine example of low-rise, mid-century architecture – representing the quintessential charm of Leaside. When the OLT Appeal Report for the 1779-1787 Bayview Avenue development application came forward to City Council in October, I directed City Planning and Heritage Planning staff to explore all options to preserve the heritage value of the Talbot Quads.

During a challenging time for heritage preservation, I encourage Leasiders to learn more about the historic buildings that tell the story of your neighbourhood. For example, this Walking Tour of South Leaside includes many local highlights. Residents looking for opportunities to get involved in preserving Leaside’s history are encouraged to contact the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society.

About Jaye Robinson 50 Articles
Jaye Robinson is City Councillor for Ward 15.