What have we learned from wrestling with tigers?

The Leaside community has recently participated in two applications for major projects on Eglinton, with a third underway. Each project is spurred by the provincially funded Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit project.

The three major projects, roughly comparable in terms of size and impact, have proceeded on quite different paths:

• 660 Eglinton East (Sunnybrook Plaza) at Bayview and Eglinton – the application now approved by the OMB, following a mediation process involving the applicant, City staff, and the LPOA.

• 939 Eglinton East at Brentcliffe and Eglinton – the application now approved by the City, pending OMB approval, following a “working committee” process involving the applicant, selected residents, and City staff.

• 815-845 Eglinton East at Laird and Eglinton – an application was recently submitted, and the City is proposing a community meeting.

939 Eglinton Ave. East

Submitted in 2013. There was a community meeting, a meeting with the LPOA, and then silence, until a revised application was submitted in 2015. The LPOA believed a “chasm” existed between the applicant’s ask and what the community was willing to accept, based on a comprehensive resident survey (conducted in partnership with Councillor Burnside), which found that a large majority of the over 2,200 respondents felt the proposal was unacceptable. A working group was struck from

community members, including the LPOA, who submitted their names to Councillor Burnside. While there was discussion on a range of development issues including site layout, street design, parks, character, traffic and community services, the most critical developmental factors – height and density – were presented only at the last of the group’s sessions in June 2016.

The LPOA concluded the proposed massing of almost 1,000 units, and maximum tower heights ranging from 27 to 35 storeys (later reduced to 26 to 34 storeys) was inappropriate for this property, and contrary to Official Plan policies for Mixed Use areas. A midrise form of development and density would be more appropriate for the subject property.

Following the working committee, Councillor Burnside arranged a public meeting to allow wider public review of the proposal. Then the applicant appealed to the OMB and made a “with prejudice” settlement offer to the City which went directly to City Council, without further public review, and was approved in December 2016. This settlement has to go to the OMB for approval in February.

660 Eglinton Ave. East

The process here was significantly different, because before an application was made, there was a Bayview Focus Area planning process, part of Eglinton Connects, resulting in Official Plan Amendments approved by City Council, and subsequent appeals to the OMB. An application for a slightly revised application (appealed by the applicant to the OMB) was refused by City Council. After a total of six OMB pre-hearing conferences, the LPOA (and 1801 Bayview condo) was given Party status. Confidentiality precludes any details of the mediation, but the resulting settlement reduced massing, height, density, abided by angular planes and increased protections in the areas of geohydrology (water) and tree preservation.

815-845 Eglinton Ave. East

For the 815-845 Eglinton Ave. development proposal the community must take the opportunity to present its vision for the whole study area. What are those aspects of Leaside – small town feel, variety of housing types, leafy streets, employment as well as residential opportunities, consistent streetscapes and setbacks, daycares, schools, recreation and community facilities, peacefulness, cleanliness, safety, livability, walkability and bikeability, ease of access to public transportation – that we want to be included in the new development?

The community must hold the City accountable to adhere to its Official Plan policies specifically in the areas of “Structuring Growth”; “Built Form-Tall Buildings”; “Building New Neighbourhoods”; and “Mixed Use Areas”.

What have we learned? We need to start early to provide input; we must work with the City and the applicant, and maintain the respect of both the City and applicant. We must be prepared, if necessary, to fight at the OMB. Finally, we need to maintain community support, financial and otherwise. Most important, we need a plan in place BEFORE the applications arrive, so there is an area context, as well as Official Plan policies in place to comply with. The whole idea is not to wrestle with tigers but to tame them (but if necessary, yes, wrestle with them)!

660 Eglinton Ave. East:
OMB approved settlement
Nov. 2016
939 Eglinton Ave. East:
Settlement with City
Dec. 2016
815-845 Eglinton Ave. East:
Application Submitted
Aug. 2016
Number of residential building. 2 3 7
Podium 5 storeys 7 storeys
Towers 2 Towers of 16 and 11 storeys 3 Towers of 16, 20 and 28 storeys 7 Towers of 6, 8, 9, 12, 26, 34 and 34 storeys
(Floor Space Index*)
3.45 3.67 3.7

* Floor Space Index (FSI) means the gross floor area of all buildings on a lot divided by the lot area.

About Geoff Kettel 223 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.