Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ossington OPA: The OCA responds

OCA members J.P. Manoux, Jessica Wilson and Benj Hellie. Photo by Bernard Weil, copyright 2012 the Toronto Star

Hope everybody is having a happy holidays! I'm recovering from the flu, so I haven't really been thinking about urban planning, but the Ossington Community Association has continued their fight against mid-rise on Ossington. Their president, Jessica Wilson, tried to post a comment in reply to my article about the OPA meeting, but the Blogger comment section doesn't allow more than ~4000 words to be written at once. I'm looking into going to a Wordpress format, with maybe my own URL, so maybe in the future this won't be a problem.

Once I'm feeling a bit better, I will try responding. If anyone has any comments or additions, reply below (but please try and keep it under 4096 characters).

Hi Eddie,
Thanks for posting on this important issue.
Some clarifications, if I may.  Apologies for the length; there's a lot to say.
1. It is unclear what it means for a given ZBL to be "out-of-date".  One sort of consideration might reflect that there was no more room to grow within the existing ZBL.  That's not true for Ossington: as a conservative estimate there is room to triple the density on Ossington within the current 14m limit.  Another sort of consideration might reflect new directions taken in an Official Plan whereby certain areas are explicitly flagged as targets for growth typically above and beyond present their current ZBL.  Ossington is not so targeted by the Official Plan---most saliently, as a narrow (17.5m ROW) pedestrian eddy destination district, it is not and is nothing like the designated Avenues---broad long transit thoroughfares, such as King, Queen, Dundas, Bloor---that (along with Downtown, Employment Districts, and Centres---are targeted for growth in the OP.
 2. You say "all the feedback given (including over a 1000 strong petition to keep Ossington low-rise) has spoken primarily to resident fears, rather than any solid evidence that a six storey building at 103-111 Ossington would destabilize the neighbourhood."
On the contrary, the OCA has canvassed many OP-based arguments against the proposal; we have also been at the forefront of blocking bad OP-based arguments in favor of the proposal.  Let me mention three of these latter sorts of arguments, which constitute the main reasons that have been offered in support of putting a large (82ft including mechanical penthouse) mid rise in a low-rise (46ft max) area, in obvious insensitivity to existing built form context.
First is the argument that Ossington, while not a designated Avenue, is fated to become an Avenue (or something like an Avenue) due to its appearing on Map 3 as slated to have a 20m ROW.  This argument is fatuous, since (a) this widening should not happen, since it would require tearing down all the Victorian and other main street character buildings that give Ossington its distinctive character; (b) this widening will never happen, due to the several historical buildings on the strip, including Toronto's first library, one of its first firehouses, and the Levack Block building; (c) there is no motivation for widening, since Map 3 is supposed to track major transportation flows, but N-S traffic from Queen to Dundas occurs along Shaw, not Ossington (the latter carries a miniscule percentage of N-S traffic).  For all these reasons, the motivation from Map 3 (which was cited in Planning's justification for 41 Ossington) is a total crock.
A second and related fatuous motivation is that because Ossington has a bus on it, it is a "major street" or a "main street" with "transit" of the sort that the OP supposedly targets for growth above current ZBL.  This is the sort of inaccurate presentation of the OP growth strategy that we have seen in Hume's and Gee's columns.  Again, the OP does not target any street with some stores and a bus route on it for over-ZBL growth.  The Official Plan Growth Policy is in Chapter 2, page 5, Policy 2.2; the targeted areas for growth (Avenues, Downtown, Centres, Employment Districts) are on Map 2.  Ossington is not on Map 2, and again for good reason (too narrow to be an Avenue, not to mention being a pedestrian eddy destination district as opposed to a major transit thoroughfare, yadda yadda).
The third fatuous motivation is that Ossington is a mixed-use area, and the OP targets any mixed-use area from over-ZBL growth.  The OP does not target any and all mixed-use areas for such growth.  What it does say, in Chapter 4, is that the land use designations that will see the most growth *within* the categories (Avenues, Downtown, etc.) targeted for growth in the OP growth policy are Mixed Use areas as opposed to, e.g., Neighborhoods.  Those who say that the OP targets any and all Mixed Use areas for growth are committing a fallacy.
All of these arguments are OP-based, not "fear-based" arguments. In addition to these and other OP-based arguments, the case against 109OZ and the Area 2 principles is based on widely recognized planning considerations (e.g., that the Area 2 principles violate the "Core-Perimeter" principle according to which taller buildings should be placed at the perimeter, not the core, of a low-rise character area) and a full range of specific details about negative impact to the business, residential, and school communities.
3. Speaking of negative impacts, these are completely obvious to anyone familiar with the area.  But one specific word about the traffic study presented by Reserve.  That study sucked, because it failed to register basic facts such as that there is a laneway residence on Argyle Place and such as that there will be significant other traffic incoming from 41 Ossington and the Givins collection residences.  The shadow study offered by Reserve also sucked, using a non-"as of right" comparison (which involved a two storey, 14m tall building occupying the whole of the lot) as the comparison building.  Such a building is not as-of-right, since the current zoning has set-back requirements.
4. As regards whether the results of the OPA will impact 109OZ.  Of course they will, even if only indirectly.  The Official Plan says that when a proposal for significant growth comes in, Council shall determine at the earliest point in the process whether an Area Study will be conducted, etc.  It was because the OCA created a big hue and cry about this specific passage in the OP that Layton requested the Area Study, BTW---note that he should have done this for 41 Ossington.  Anyway, the clear suggestion is that the proposal, if judged under the existing planning context, would be rejected---as 109OZ should be, if judged solely under the existing context of a 14m height and 2.5density limit.  The whole point of the Area Study is to consider whether the ZBL is in fact outdated such that perhaps the building should be allowed, even so.  If it looks like the Area Study is going to affirm the existing limits, then the oversize proposal will likely not be approved.  If the Area Study rather says---sure, let's go higher---then the oversized proposal will likely be approved.  This is confirmed in certain OMB decisions.
5. Concerns that Planning did not appropriately take community input into account do no advert to our not entirely getting our way, but rather specifically refer to (1) the fact that Planning evidently discounted or dismissed the 2100 signature petition, on grounds of concerns about its legitimacy, with neither Layton's office nor Planning informing the OCA of this fact; (2) Rees did not take into account previous site-specific input pertaining to the 109OZ lands (hundreds of pieces of feedback at public and private meetings, in emails, phone calls, etc.), even though previous Area Studies (e.g., the Queen West Triangle Study) did so, and even though Planning singled out, via Area 2, the very sites for which massive anti-midrise feedback had been given for mid-rise development; (3) Rees seems to have discounted the public Visioning Process meetings, which again clearly resulted in a low-rise consensus, as encoded in the final Visioning Process Principles, instead adverting to a 34-person survey in which, he claimed, there was a 70-30 split in favor of low-rise; here it is worth noting that at least 4 of those 34 were members of the developer's team; adjusting for vested interests and the drunk heckling guy, that leaves around 13% in favor of mid-rise.  Of course, that's nothing compared to the hundreds and thousands of pro-low-rise voices; my point is that Rees seems to have discounted or ignored the vast majority of these.



1 comment:

  1. Edit: Jessica Wilson asked me to change this paragraph above:

    "All of these arguments are OP-based, not "fear-based" arguments. They are what the OCA has been presenting, in addition to a full range of specific details about negative impact to the business, residential, and school communities, to all the involved parties. "

    to this:

    "All of these arguments are OP-based, not "fear-based" arguments. In addition to these and other OP-based arguments, the case against 109OZ and the Area 2 principles is based on widely recognized planning considerations (e.g., that the Area 2 principles violate the "Core-Perimeter" principle according to which taller buildings should be placed at the perimeter, not the core, of a low-rise character area) and a full range of specific details about negative impact to the business, residential, and school communities."

    In case you were reading it again and it looked a little different.

    ReplyDelete