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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Cold War Against St. Clair

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How is your St. Clair boycott going? Mine is going just fine — I even (mostly) shut my eyes yesterday as I crossed the pariah avenue while out for an evening run up Spadina Road (there are less traffic lights in Forest Hill) — out of sight, out of mind. It was nice to see the editorial in today’s Toronto Star come out against the Save Our St. Clair group, and even Royson James, in his own way, is talking about the bad omen this all sends.

Triumphant in the courts, opponents of a streetcar right-of-way down St. Clair Ave. W. have hailed the project’s stoppage as a victory of the “community” over city hall bureaucrats.

Only in a narrow sense are they right: One community did win, that of a small group of area residents and shopkeepers worried about loss of parking space and too little room on the road for cars if this project went ahead.

A much larger community lost, that of transit riders, both present and future, and everyone interested in expanding Toronto’s supply of efficient, environmentally smart public transit.

Maybe it’s those old Atkinson Principals kicking in, but it was nice to read. Yesterday, they ran a more troubling article called The Power of Nimbyism. It equated the Save Our St. Clair (as Margaret Smith of SOS herself does) “movement” with the Stop the Spadina one 30 years ago. That’s a false link — the difference is one was actually about making Toronto as a whole better, (thus rendering it un-NIMBY) while the other seems not to care about Toronto at all — in fact, they seem to forget they actually live in a city.

We’ll have time to think about that while the City spends a lot of money to appeal this decision. We can thank Margaret for that too. One thing I’d like to ask her though, is if she is so against city things like good transit, why doesn’t she move out to Vaughan (where, presumably, all those people who need to drive their cars to St. Clair live)? There’s a lot of room out there for her big ideas to flourish and sprawl.