Message from David Godley to Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto:
This is Long Branch calling for your help again although the neighbourhood character analysis issue is Citywide.
It is a follow up to my letter of last Friday to key people in the Official Plan Review process on Neighbourhoods (see below) now we have received the latest “wisdom” from the OMB on 39 33rd Street.
There is a fundamental flaw in the thinking in the OP current version and hopefully this can be resolved via email. If not we need a meeting to discuss and possibly a revisit to PGMC.
We need a Flaw Plan!
The intent of the current Official Plan is excellent.
However interpretation by the OMB and development planners skews its meaning.
Therefore it is not working – big time in Long Branch. 10 adverse decisions recently based on analysis at the wider neighbourhood
Nor would the current wording work as presented in the draft Official Plan for the community meeting and creates extra problems.
I would like to disabuse all those in power and with influence that neighbourhood character should not be assessed on a wider area.
For analysis of neighbourhood character the street block or microneighbourhood is the critical component; the nearer the houses to the subject site the more influence they should have.
The street block/microneighbourhood I would define as those buildings that can be seen from the front of the subject site.
Drawing in a wider area was the downfall of the decision on 39 33rd Street (PL 150196) issued September 10 2015.
25 feet frontage semis were proposed on a street of mainly 50 feet wide lots. The 39 33rd block had 10 detached and one pair of semis.
The community has confidence in both Sarah O’Connor, lawyer and Anthony Hommick, planner as dedicated professionals.
Until the Official Plan wording reflects practical reality and good planning/urban design principles the same results will occur.
As well if we stick with the wider area hearings the process will become paralysis by analysis at OMB hearings (because of the extra prevailings) – more costly for the City and applicant and more nuisance piled on already stressed out citizens.
As Brian Haley knows from the 51 Lakeshore Drive file I have consistently sought to amend the City’s character analysis notions and Anthony Hommick and Nicole Ivanov will vouch for my consistency in recent hearings.
I believe Shawna Bowen of Urban Design and Denise Rundle also subscribes to my approach.
We need to look at the customers who are the people close to the development.
Human oriented solutions are usually the ones that work.
Steve Hilton’s seminal book (which is politically neutral) is essential reading for anyone involved in Government especially planning (or business for that matter.)
“More Human” Designing a world where people come first. 2015, Penguin Random House.
Also Denise Rundle and I are both of the opinion that the adjacent front house elevations shown in relation to the elevation of the proposal should be submitted by the applicant. Imagining a proposal and impacts is one of the most difficult things for neighbours to envisage although we as planners can judge it is a matter of course.
Other issues stemming from the OMB decision are that 1) new development that does not reinforce or respect the character of the area should not be included in character analyses.
Mr Hommick tried desperately to make this point to no avail. I have previously suggested adding “traditional” character to overcome this problem.
2) the word “prevailing” is not working. If there are a couple of houses of a particular kind this becomes prevailing in the OMB’s mind.
This needs to be changed to “most frequently occurring” or similar as supported in principle by Neil Cresswell.
I trust we can work this out between us with Barbara Leibel and Brian Liberty as my joint cohorts.
An acknowledgement would be appreciated.
We congratulate you on your continued fine planning work.
It is comforting that we can have faith in change for the better.
David Godley, Long Branch 416-255-0492
Earlier letter from David Godley of Long Branch:
The Ontario Municipal Board have approved 3 storey semis after a hearing on July 30/31 2015 at 39 33rd Street.
The community were very pleased with the City’s representatives Sarah O’Connor, Legal and Anthony Hommick, Planning.
However they are fighting an uphill battle against an Official Plan whose misinterpretation by the OMB has been fatal for about the 10th time.
There are 2 fundamental problems which are being repeated in the draft Official Plan.
1) The word “Prevailing” is ineffective. This has been challenged by the trickiest lawyer on the rounds, Russell Cheeseman.
39 33rd St was approved based on the prevailing use of semi detached houses which make up less than 5% of the neighbourhood and only a pair exist in the microneighbourhood as opposed to 10 detached .
The inadequacy of the term prevailing was discussed and supported in principle by Neil Cresswell at our August 14th meeting. Much better wording is “Most frequently occurring”.
2) Numerous approval has been given because there are other similar developments in the planner’s wider area.
The City always use a an area of a few hundred houses to gauge character and of course so do developers’ planners.
This is the undoing of good planning at the OMB.
In a heterogenous neighbourhood like Long Branch the wider area is largely irrelevant. It may be that the cottage character is a wider consideration but this is unique to Long Branch.
It should be struck from the assessment process used in the Official Plan because it does not accord with good practice in urban design analysis.
It needs an epiphany in the Planning Department to understand neighbourhood character is determined by each street.
An amalgam of street characters form the overall character. Street character varies even within streets and is basically formed by what can be seen at a given point.
If we have a block of semis surrounded by singles, a semi is appropriate. The wider area is irrelevant.
If we have a block of singles surrounded by semis, a single is appropriate. The wider area is irrelevant.
This is Urban Design 101 and I believe Ms Bowen of Urban Design agrees based on a short conversation I had with her.
It is also the way citizens which the City serve perceive the issue.
We appreciate the improvements to the Official Plan but the current wording in the draft will not work while we are under the auspices of the OMB and LABs may not be much different.
I suspect before we move to LABs there will be an inundation of applications so they can be considered by the OMB.
I am requesting that the current Official Plan draft be changed to reflect these modifications before presenting to the public. At the very least bring the issue forward.
I and the community would like a response from the Mayor, our Councillor, and the Planning Department please.
Let’s stop knocking our heads against a brick wall.