Queen West Triangle decision to be appealed?

The decision by the OMB to award developers everything they asked for in the Queen West Triangle, despite the wishes of City Hall, local residents and the community group Active 18 has once again verified how insane Toronto’s planning process really is.

If you want to know more, check out Active 18’s web site. They are holding a press conference at 11:45 at City Hall, today! Go if you can. Here’s the email they sent along:

ACTIVE 18 PRESS CONFERENCE
TUESDAY JANUARY 16 AT 11:45 AM
TORONTO CITY HALL , 100 QUEEN ST. WEST, MEMBERS LOUNGE
(behind Council Chambers)

PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND ATTEND THIS CRUCIAL MEETING!

Active 18, an association of community residents and business owners advocating for sustainable development of the Queen West Triangle, will hold a press conference on TUESDAY, JANUARY 16 at 11:45 AM to provide their response to last week’s decision by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to grant developers the right to build four high-rise towers and four 8-story buildings in a three-block area.

The OMB rejected almost all of the planning evidence put forth both the City and Active18.  Who’s in charge of city planning? Why did this process fail so abjectly, both at the City and before the OMB?  And what are the ramifications of the OMB decisions for the community and the city as a whole?

Joining Active 18 representatives Jessica Wyman and Charles Campbell to comment on the OMB decision will be Councillor Adam Giambrone (whose ward includes the Queen West Triangle), prominent architect and urban designer Ken Greenberg, and others.

The Queen West Triangle is the parcel of land bounded by Dufferin Street on the west, Dovercourt on the east, Queen St. on the north, and the railway tracks on the south.

photo by Kevin Steele 

11 comments

  1. Just another absolute failure by the City Planning department to create development that suits a community. There is a reason why people are becoming engaged in their city via things like Spacing; it beacuse they are angry at what they see.

    As long as the OMB exists the City has somebody to blame their own mistakes on (and even a quick read on Active 18s website clearly shows how the City missed the boat on this one.). If you follow other less well known planning issues around town you start to hear the same excuses over and over again.

    I think that the OMB should be scrapped but bear in mind there would still have to be some kind of appeal process in place. And we would still be stuck with the underfunded, understaffed, and underrealised City of Toronto Planning Department. As a first step I encourage Spacing readers to become active in forcing the abolishment of the OMB.

    (Kevin who took the photo and I lived at 48 Abell in the 80’s and spent many great times with friends on that roof.)

  2. Scott, I’m not much of a planning aficionado so could you connect the dots between the failure of the City planners and OMB in this case?

    Though I realize the Poanning Dept. leaves alot to be desired, from what I’ve read in the past two days it sounds like the blame falls squarely on the OMB. And the Active 18 press release doesn’t make me think any differently. Thanks.

  3. I felt the same way as A when I read Scott’s comment.

    What I do know is that the City failed to produce a secondary plan for the area before developers moved in, which is obvisouly a fault. Their eventual plan was mostly a copy of the Active 18 plan.

    Aside from that, tyhe plan was smart and repsectful of the neighbourhood. I don’t understand why the OMB does these things — they are not planners, but judges (correct me if I’m wrong). Developers are not planners either, since their only concern is selling the spaces. People will buy a place mostly depending on what the space has to offer, and think about the ammenties later. People will move to areas with poor transit, a lack of ammenties if it means they can buy a place for $150,000.

    Another sad day for Queen West.

  4. You know maybe someone could actually think about what growth and intensification means. If your neighbourhood is close to the center of the city and is on major transit lines, then it HAS to become more intense. Y’all are opposed to sprawl and love transit, but refuse to reconcile with the fact that people need to live somewhere, and that Queen West is one of the best places for this growth.

    OMB has to exist because council lets the NIMBYs run the place. So Vaughan will kill everything proposed downtown, and then the OMB will slap council around and make them accept reasonable development. 1 Bedford faced the same opposition and had to go to OMB for approval. It’s adjacent to tall buildings and sits ON FREAKING TOP of both subway lines, but it was opposed and didn’t fit in the zoning. We still have a Crombyite zoning and planning department where anythign over 3 stories is teh evul. When Council and the Planners grow up and accept that Toronto must become much denser, then the OMB can go away. Since the odds of council becoming responsible and mature are as good as the odds of Bob Rae being acclaimed as the Premier of Alberta, the OMB will be around for a long, long time.

    Stop being a bunch of raging hypocrites and actually support real urban life. But no, Spacing has to live the communist radical life of opposing everything.

  5. Comrade Hey,

    No one has opposed intensification. Its the towers and removal of the artists spaces that attracted a lot of people to the area in the first place (if not the inspiration for all of the cheap marketing schemes). There’s lots of space in the area where development can be 6 stories, keep sunlight on neighbouring properties,as well as keep faitful to the area’s athstetics, another part of the area’s charm.

    What I’m opposed to is an unaccountable body making decisions about Toronto’s development, against the wishes of the city and the neighbourhood.

    Council doesn’t have to be as involved with development if secondary plans can be created and adhered to. That way, there is little need for the OMB.

    Also gotta love your name calling and insults without having the Thatchers to attach your own name to it. But this is what you do with every one of your arrogant rants we find on the Wire.

  6. Hello again Hey – if you actually read Toronto’s new official plan, which was developed by the planners and politicians you are ranting about, you would see that it specifically calls for significant intensification throughout the city. Even the groups opposing this particular development were in favour of intensification in this area. Your characterization of them is demonstrably wrong.

    The difference is that the official plan favours an intensification that builds on existing, proven main-street patterns, with mid-rise buildings (outside specified “centres”). It’s a proven model for intensification that creates vibrant, lively urban streets and community buy-in, along with a lot more people living in city. That’s what we like.

  7. I consider it worth noting that the case made for the preservation of 48 Abell rests on a number of questionable points:

    1.Nobody doubts that the live/work units in 48 Abell violate the law. Many of us pin our hopes for a substantial reduction in greenhouse gases on updates to building codes which will require better insulation in homes and businesses. All of us depend on the law to regulate development. When Active 18 passes over the legal violations at 48 Abell with no mention of any health, safety or energy use issues in the building as it stands, they undermine their own argument.

    2.The website for Active 18 on the issue of 48 Abell claims that the building now contains 80 units, and claims that we will see “No net gain of affordable housing in the City”. However, St. Clare’s Multi-faith housing, the affordable housing partner of the development at 48 Abell, plans to build 199 affordable units.

    3.Active 18 refers to the units at 48 Abell as “affordable”; however, posting on the subject at this site claims that at least one musician inquired about renting and could not afford the quoted rate. St. Clare’s has posted what they intend to offer units for; what does the current management at 48 Abell now charge for a live/work space?

    I have three questions for you at Spacing Wire:

    1. Will you attempt to reconcile the conflicting accounts of rents and numbers of affordable units?

    2. Having stood up for necessary intensification in this city and gotten called a “Judas” in a public meeting, I know very well the power of NIMBY sentiments in this city. Can you point to an editorial in which you have looked at the case against an intensification, industrial use, or social housing site and called it wrong, selfish, or harmful?

    3.If Ontario dumps the OMB, can you think of any better mechanism for checking the impulse to support needed intensification and services anywhere but where the speaker (in any given case) lives?

  8. “A”- I am not sure if connecting the dots is the right phrase but it can be summed up as simply as this:

    “As senior city planner, Gary Wright recently admitted, “We fell behind the curve.” Even the develper said that the City left things really late in the process. As usual it was not until the press got bad that people starting trying to change this development with last gasp attempts such as historical designation.

    If you read the history of the property you will find that many of the things that Active18 wanted were in fact proposed a few years back by the owner (not the developer) of the property. Guess how receptive the City was? So the owner said screw it and brought in a developer which led to the OMB process (one that the City has pretty much no money to wage and generally does not fare well at).

    This whole thing could have been potentially resolved in a manner that was creative and met the increasing housing needs of the area.

    The OMB, well thats another story. As much as I think it should be scrapped the reality is that some mechanism will have to exist to resolve these issues. And probably somebody is still going to be upset. If wwe had our own Toronto OMB thenm at least it could try to adhere to our official plan; and that would be a giant step forward.

  9. This 48 Abell and the other condos is a mess that neither the City nor the province are blameless in. It must be reviewed again – at the level above the OMB, the provincial Cabinet. Why?
    1)Our OP is too readily gotten around through automatic recourse to the OMB, so efforts at planning and control are under-cut if not knee-capped.
    2)We can’t sanction the urban oil spills of wasting sound solid buildings any more given our climate crisis. 48 Abell has a lot of embodied energy in it.
    3) A wall of tall buildings will likely impair the flow of cooler lake breezes to dilute heat and bad air inland – and the City can’t or won’t do the planning as they want the tax revenue from everything.
    4) transport planning is really bad in Smogtown – we have a real decline in urban transick on Queen St. (see Steve Munro’s blog) and yet no plan to upgrade because we don’t have the money because some want to build the Pantalone Parkway, or subways for sprawl. We should expand the eastern edge of this rail corridor and make sure we can transfer Queen St. streetcars down along the railway to say Front St. for a transitway to Union Station too.
    5) The suburban politicians outvote urban values in the amanglemated motoropolis, so the core is being shafted in many ways, including more density. The place to intensify is really in the lower density suburbs, not necessarily an already denser core.
    If the provincial Liberals can’t see that people don’t like being so disrespected, let’s turf them out, another reason being the four year terms.

  10. To answer the comments posted by Hamish Wilson, in order:

    1) Our OP is too readily gotten around through automatic recourse to the OMB…
    No argument here. On the other hand, NIMBYs find it appallingly easy to block the approvals process for any development. Toronto politicians listen to the neighbourhoods, as the official ideology of Toronto has demanded they do since Jane Jacobs/David Crombie of the 1970s. Everyone gets a voice on housing development, except the people sleeping on steam grates.

    2) We can’t sanction the urban oil spills of wasting sound solid buildings any more…
    According to this report, thoughtfully provided by Active-18, 48 Abell does not currently meet fire codes, and serious technical and financial issues impede attempts to bring it up to code. The live/work units do not merely violate some abstract zoning rule; the fire codes address safety of life issues.

    3) A wall of tall buildings will likely impair the flow of cooler lake breezes…
    Quite likely. We should not have to put up with development this massive to get 199 units of affordable housing. On the other hand, it doesn’t do to ignore the 199 affordable units planned for this development.

    4) transport planning is really bad in Smogtown…
    No argument here. As with the ROW on St Clair, we have bad transport planning for the same reasons that we have bad planning period. We don’t hold NIMBYs accountable. If you want to build anything anywhere, you have to jump through endless hoops to justify your plans. But anyone can say no to any project, whether transit or housing for the homeless, no matter how desperately needed, for any reason, no matter how trivial or selfish.

    5) The place to intensify is really in the lower density suburbs, not necessarily an already denser core.
    Neighbourhood activists always call for intensification to take place in someone else’s neighbourhood.

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