Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New ways out

If you've been following the news lately, you have probably heard that the TTC is planning to build second exits at Greenwood and Donlands stations. This will require property acquisition, as the exit has to go somewhere within the station box. I won't comment on the selection of the site, but I do feel the need to weigh in on some of the issues.

First of all, this project is meant to meet the fire code. Stations need to have more than one exit in case of a fire, as they could potentially have to evacuate two fully loaded trains at the same time - something that would take ages with only one exit. There have been fires in TTC stations before, so this isn't planning for an unlikely hypothetical. Arguing that the money would be better spent on service expansion is a red herring.

Secondly, I get the sense that the process by which property is acquired is being distorted. Governments do not take your property - they buy it at market rates, and they generally offer you an allowance for moving expenses. Only if you refuse to voluntarily sell can they get a court to force a sale (this is know as expropriation) - but you still get market rate plus a moving allowance. When was the last time a buyer said "I'll give you asking plus moving costs"? To say that the community will be bulldozed is not helpful.

Ultimately the situation on Danforth will work itself out, but I tend to find that facts lead to a better outcome than half-truths and hearsay.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The best laid plans of people and patios

One of the elements that make for vibrant streets in cities is the boulevard patio. King Street West between Simcoe and Spadina, for example, is a perfect example. In the summer, patios allow restaurants to showcase their menus to passers-by and it caters to a near universal desire to get outside and enjoy the good weather. For visitors, it makes the streetscape more attractive and gives people a reason to get out of their cars and walk. For municipalities, a more successful business district means higher property values, investment and a more successful city overall.

Now, in Toronto, boulevard patios are governed by Chapter 313 of the Municipal Code for the old City of Toronto and the Vibrant Streets policy document, and approval requires that there be a 2.13m pedestrian clearway between the curb and the patio. In other words, the application will be denied if either the curb or a piece of street furniture is less than 2.13 m from the patio. This is a reasonable limitation, as a patio that takes up the entire sidewalk is counter-productive to the goal of vibrant streets. But, the next part of the Code causes things to get a bit squirrelly.

(More after the jump)

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Equal opportunity opinions

Today I received an anonymous comment on my Heart Lake post which said, and I quote, "Where do you live? I can guarantee everyone it's not Heart Lake!"

After careful consideration, I've decided that I will not, after this post, entertain such comments on my blog. Here's why:

If I were a betting man, my wager would be on the poster telling me that since I don't live in Heart Lake, I don't understand the issues and therefor my opinion is irrelevant. I do not live in Heart Lake, nor have I ever claimed to live in Heart Lake, nor have I ever claimed to represent the community. However, for the last 15 years I have shopped at the majority of businesses in Heart Lake; enjoyed the library, recreation centre / pool, trails and sports fields in Heart Lake; and I have even worked in Heart Lake at the recreation centre. The vast majority of the people I hung out with in high school lived in Heart Lake and many still do. I read the local newspaper, and I even remember when Loafer's Lake had paddle boats you could rent. In addition, I am a graduate of Ryerson University's School of Urban and Regional Planning where I have gained the knowledge to better understand my own community and be able to critically examine modern planning principles. I believe that those aspects of my person qualify me to speak on development issues in Heart Lake.

But, even if all the above was untrue, any informed person should be given the opportunity to speak on any issue and not have their opinion dismissed because they don't live on the right side of an arbitrary boundary. If this were the case, then what gives Brampton City Council, other than the councillors for the area (and perhaps the mayor) the moral authority to make decisions that affect Heart Lake? If only two (local and regional) councillors actually lives here, shouldn't the rest of them just butt out too?

It's okay to respectfully disagree with someone else. However, it is not okay to attempt to marginalize someone because they do not agree with your position. Everyone has something to contribute to the discourse of how we want our communities to develop, and everyone should be heard. So, if you don't like what I have to say then I encourage you to start your own blog or write your elected officials and tell them where you stand on issues. As long as the issues are being discussed, I have done my job.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (b)OMB

I think this blog post is worth re-posting in light of the protest against the decision this weekend. My stance on the issue has not changed, as I truly believe that this is the kind of development we need to turn around our neighbourhood.

We often talk about the OMB taking away our right to build the community we want to see. Well, the Heart Lake that I want to see is inclusive and offers a variety of housing for people of different family sizes and income levels. I want to see it support local businesses by growing their customer base. I want better transit, and raising density increases transit ridership which results in increased service. I want to see taxes stay low by bringing in more people to help pay for infrastructure. I want to see a place where the environment is protected by building away from the Greenbelt and pristine farmland. I want to see a place where there is no longer a disconnect between "I want to live there" and "I can live there".

The Ontario Municipal Board has not taken away our rights. In fact, the OMB has upheld our right to live in a place we've been saying we want to live in for years.

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