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What Kind of Toronto?
The January 2003 print edition of the Forest Hill Town Crier reports that the city-owned Toronto Parking Authority is evicting tenants from a building the TPA owns, in order to condemn it and build a parking lot in the St. Clair and Bathurst area. The local city councillor, Joe Mihevc, proudly supports this plan:
I am proud to report that City Council, at its meeting on July 30th, adopted a report by Toronto Parking Authority staff, which approves the purchase of 1445 Bathurst St for the purposes of creating a 25-space surface car park.
In the Town Crier article, he explains his decision.
St. Paul's (West) Councillor Mihevc says he is trying to balance the needs of tenants with those of local businesses that rely on available parking for customers. "Iím committed to helping secure a rent abatement package for the residents. But if you talk to businesses in the area, they will say they are hurting because of lack of parking," said Mihevc.
On the other hand, nearby St. Paul's (East) councillor, and respected tenant-activist, Michael Walker is opposed to the idea.
"You must understand that while there may be a shortage of parking to serve businesses in that area, there is a city-wide shortage of affordable rental housing," wrote Walker in a letter to (President of the Toronto Parking Authority, Maurice) Anderson.
Walker supported the plan until it became known that it was actually an inhabited residential apartment building that was being demolished. I join Michael Walker in opposing this development, but for different reasons. I just don't think that tearing down useful buildings to pave parking lots is the best thing for the long-term interest of the city. Nor does this seem consonant with the new Toronto Official Plan (PDF summary here). Core values of this plan include:
  • vibrant neighbourhoods
  • diverse and affordable housing
  • vital, attractive, and walkable space
  • green spaces and public places
  • great public transit
  • clean land, air, and water
  • a strong economy and a competitive downtown
  • beautiful architecture and urban design
  • a spectacular waterfront
  • 1445 Bathurst is one building away from the corner of St. Clair. Not only is St. Clair one of the "Avenues" targeted by the official plan for concentrated growth, but this intersection is already a block away from the St. Clair West subway station. In short, this area is one that the new plan targets for intensification oriented around public transit, local residents, and walking. Diverse uses of land are also indicated; residential and commercial uses should be mixed. Furthermore, the Official Plan explicitly suggests the "redevelopment of surface commuter parking lots on City owned land" for "sites in areas well serviced by transit, such as locations around key subway stations and along major surface transit routes." What I feel is even more important is consideration of long-term vision for the city. It is forecast that in the next 30 years, the Greater Toronto Area will grow by 2.7 million new residents and produce 1.8 million new jobs. I argue that it is crucial for the city to absorb as much of this growth as possible. Every newcomer that adds to the suburban sprawl that surrounds Toronto dissipates the strength of the city, and shifts the balance of power. In the long run, as more and more of the region tilts towards suburban-style development, the harder it becomes for the city to maintain and expand its high quality of life based on the principles mentioned above (i.e., the Official Plan's core values). By increasing the intensity of use of the avenue, developments like the St. Clair LRT can do a lot more to bring support to the businesses in the neighbourhood at the same time that it supports the city's Official Plan, and the long-term strategic needs of the city. I do feel that Councillor Mihevc is generally in tune with this same vision of the city, as evidenced by his battles against drive-thrus along St. Clair. I just think that he's moving the neighbourhood in the wrong direction in this case.

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