Message from David Godley of Long Branch regarding final approval of OPA 320

A previous post is entitled:

Settlement reached regarding City of Toronto Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 320 – You can access text and PDF at this post

Now settled in at Stratford, I continue to follow with interest events in Long Branch, where I lived for twenty-one years. It is most interesting to be keeping up with land-use planning events in Toronto, in part through reading the weekly reports from the NRU Toronto Edition newsletter, to which I subscribe.

I also like to observe closely land-use planning issues in other cities such as Saint John, N.B.:

“The Once and Future New Brunswick Free Press” (2010) outlines what a free press entails

Hearing about Long Branch only once in a while is a great way to get a sense of what the land-use decision making trends actually are, as the months go by. Taking a more detached view of things, I’ve found, actually sharpens my perceptions and enables me to more readily observe trends (or so I like to think, at any rate).

I’ve also recently made it a practice (as part of a new approach on my part to keeping up with world news) to check online news sites, and to read a print newspaper, generally only once a week. I also spend more time than before reading book-length accounts of topics covered in the news, rather than reading online news accounts all the time.

I like to call this High Intensity Interval Reading (HIIR), which is akin to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for cardiovascular fitness. Bottom line: I find I comprehend the news much better when I encounter in intensively, and with full attention,  once a week, rather than being engulfed by it in the course of each passing minute, hour, and day.

To return to the point of the current post:

Jan. 5, 2019 David Godley sent out a message to a number of key people in the Toronto planning community; I post it below for your interest:

Dear Gregg, Neil and Steven

The legalisation of the text of the Review of Healthy Neighbourhoods on December 7 2018 is a major step forward for [planning in neighbourhoods. That is especially true for Urban Design which to me is the third dimension of planning, the study of aesthetics and what people see on the ground.

CURRENT SITUATION

Currently there is no formal urban design input, other than Forestry comments, on severance and variance applications.

The Committee of Adjustment, at least in Etobicoke York and from what I understand in other sectors of the City, take no notice of Urban Design or the OP in general for that matter.

The Land Use Planners who support developments at appeal hearings, in most cases, have little comprehension of urban design despite being OPPI members.

The OMB nearly always took these planners at face value and therefore approved development without realising that the general intent and fundamental strategy of the OP was breached.

Consequently the goal to increase economic and social competitiveness, emphasised in the OP , has been lost over the last few years.

SOLDIER HOUSES

In the case of formulaic “soldier houses” aka known as “tall, skinny, long houses” are making neighbourhoods more similar because they are being built all over the City.

Fortunatety TLAB, especially Chair Ian Lord, have good critical thinking skills and generally base their decisions on logic rather than the OMB’s precedent approach.

URBAN DESIGN ANALYSIS

What has been missing from planning of neighbourhoods in Toronto is the appropriate method of urban design analysis.

A study area of several hundred houses without the prevailing prefixes in Section 4.1.5 means that land use planners seize on a few outlier examples of housing and maintain that neighbourhood character is eclectic; therefore they say that any design of house fits the
neighbourhood. They also reinforce this by saying that all approvals must by nature conform to the OP which, of course, is not true. There are cases where the zoning bylaw runs against the OP as it is a blunt instrument ideal for standard lots. Non standard lots were the
reason the Planning Act allowed for variances. At a recent hearing, the development planner said soldier houses with double density were a good fit and an attractive addition to the Long Branch neighbourhood.

He never mentioned the block or the nearby houses. Examining details of study areas, that is so time consuming at hearings, will now no longer be necessary.

QUANTIFYING THE BLOCK

The study area can be presented in mathematical terms (ie most frequently occurring) for dwelling type, configuration of lots especially width, density, heights/storeys, garages and driveways, and setbacks.
Now that Block has been established as the priority over the Broad area of assessment, we need to establish a standard method of quantification within the block; hopefully this can be included in the Review of Section 3 of the OP.

The basic proposition is that the closer a street property is to the proposal the more weight it should be given in determining the design of the proposal. That is because a direct view of the proposal can be seen from the public realm. It is logical that less weight should be
given to those properties that can only be seen at an oblique view with the proposal.

Therefore urban design analysis is a graded weighting system.

FRONT END ANALYSIS

Both analysis and bird’s eye view and front facade of the proposal and abutting street properties are needed as part of the application to enable proper assessment by decision makers.

If this is done at the beginning of the process by the applicant nearly all the soldier houses in Long Branch (which now number around 110) would never have been attempted.

TLAB and residents would not have to endure the charade of 3, 4 and even 5 day hearings that now have become common. I realise staff resources are limited and some hearings have relied on citizens to protect their neighbourhood.

However staff time is going to be reduced under the {hopefully} new regime which gives greater opportunity for emphasis on getting both complex proposals and the more straightforward new developments to reflect and reinforce existing character.

I would appreciate any feedback you have on my points and ask you include them as additional comments on the review of the Urban Design chapter of OP.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely, David Godley

 

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