I welcome the intensification and development of Etobicoke Centre as a means of urbanizing the suburbs. This intensification would result in economic opportunities outside the core, a redistribution of our transit loads so that not every commuter would need nor want to go downtown, and an opportunity for us to take advantage of urban living within our suburban communities.
My problem with intensification is that I don’t trust City Council, City Planning, developers and the Ontario Municipal Board to follow their own plans and act in our best interests. The recently permitted 42 storey IQ Condos on The Queensway comes immediately to mind (shout out to our interim and unelected councillor James Maloney: would it have killed you to propose and support a motion to defer the decision on this one until after the election?). However, it turns out that we have an escape clause in what’s called the “Development Permit System”.
The City of Toronto’s Planning Department offers a teaser on its website called Reset TO – Towards Neighbourhood Planning. But Dylan Reid, a senior editor at Spacing Magazine, wrote a much more in depth summary of the process in an excellent article entitled Understanding the proposed Development Permit System. He writes that…
“In its essence, the Development Permit System is a way to:
a) do a comprehensive re-zoning of an area, with full community and stakeholder input, to make it appropriate for the specific location, including its physical character and the density it could reasonably support.
b) ensure that new development can only be built if it strictly conforms to this new zoning.”
The current system allows existing landowners or developers who purchased land to apply for rezoning for additional height and density currently beyond the existing and arguably outdated zoning regulations. Everybody – City Planning, City Council, Councillors, landowners, developers, residents – hate the current system because the target always seems to be moving and no one is ever sure what the outcome of a development proposal will be. Add to this the ridiculous system of what Reid calls “institutional bribery” in the form of Section 37 Benefits and it becomes a chaotic process where there are few winners.
My number one election issue for our ward is the development of Etobicoke Centre. The Development Permit System would be the tool that we could use to create the kind of change we want. I’m not saying that it will be easy. In fact, it will require a lot of hard work, meetings, consultations, and design decisions among many interested parties not least of which are the residents of Ward 5 who have the most at stake. Moreover, I want to stop all new development in Etobicoke Centre until this process has a chance to run its course. The whole process may even take a few years. But what a victory it would be if we pulled it off…
Imagine Etobicoke Centre built around a public square. This square would be surrounded by three and four storey buildings forming the perimeter of a large outdoor room that could be used for farmers market, musical performances and cultural festivals, national and provincial holidays, and many more special events. The buildings surrounding the square would consist of retail and commercial space on the main floors such as cafes, restaurants, retailers, grocers, pharmacies, boutiques, cinemas, recreational facilities, libraries and so on. The floors above could be a mix of office and residential space. Behind these low rise buildings would be mid-rise buildings consisting of a mix of residential and commercial space with underground parking and pedestrian streets above ground. All of these structures would be built with enduring high quality materials and designed at an attractive human scale. Finally, behind these mid-rise buildings would be the high rise office, institutional, and residential towers. Again with underground parking and pedestrian walkways above. Behind these high-rises would be mid-rise buildings graduating back to low-rises on the periphery. We can do this!
Let’s take control of our development. Let’s create a more vibrant, balanced and livable community. Let’s build a ward which combines the best qualities of urban and suburban living. Elect me on October 27th to lead the charge and then support to make it happen.