HVRA’s Planning and Development Committee (P&D) monitors and responds to studies from the City Planning Department. We also engage with studies about development of the U of T campus, our huge next-door neighbour.
The HVRA Planning and Development Committee welcomes your ideas about current planning studies. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(See the page Development Plans for projects in process, and the page Past Development Issues for accounts of completed studies and their results. To look for specific topics, use the Search button or the Site Map on the righthand sidebar.)
In 2017-18, HVRA has taken an active role in discussions about ways city laneways could be used to increase the city’s housing stock. In Summer 2017, we contributed a study of specific conditions in our area, and in Spring 2018 we analysed and responded to the draft guidelines prepared by the Planning Department.
LOCAL STUDY, Summer 2017: Responding to interests and concerns expressed by HVRA members and by City Council, we conducted a detailed study of the lanes in Harbord Village. Our study maps and measures all 28 of them and analyses their suitability for laneway housing as it was envisaged at that time. Toronto East York Community Council received this study as background material for its meeting of July 4, 2017—and promptly recommended it to City Planning as a model for such studies.
Sue Dexter comments:
Affordable housing has become a serious issue in Toronto. There are various initiatives underway to address the problem. Among them is a private-sector initiative asking the City to change planning rules to permit rear-yard and laneway housing, serviced from the main house, accessible to the main street for other servicing.
After meeting with the proponents, we decided to test their proposal in our laneways and prepared a study for consideration by Toronto and East York Community Council.
Our study confirms that expansion of approvals into lanes should be neighbourhood-specific. In Harbord Village, with row housing, narrow and unserviced lanes, and short lots that are already built out, backyard and laneway unit approvals would be spotty at best. In other areas of the City laneways might be more universally appropriate.
Harbord Village is already home to many affordable units, with basement units, apartments and rooming houses, and two larger shelters in our catchment. Census figures show that Harbord Village has increased its population between 2001 and 2016 by 14.35% (753 persons),
We would support an aggressive policy to build affordable units—but caution that the most efficient way to achieve growth is to find ways to encourage affordable rental housing on our main streets while preserving stable, but growing, local neighbourhoods.
The challenge remains how and where best to locate new affordable units and to find creative approaches to enhance our laneways. It will not be one size fits all.
ANALYSIS OF PLANNING REPORT, Spring 2018: Responding to a request from City Council, the Planning Department released a new set of guidelines for construction of laneway suites in some areas of the city, including ours. Changing Lanes: The City of Toronto’s Review of Laneway Suites is available on the city website.
- In the Spring 2018 HVRA Newsletter (page 11), Sue Dexter and Carolee Orme outline the main stipulations in this report. These include access for fire and emergency services, specifications for height, size and spacing, and protection of permeable surface and mature trees. A photo and diagram accompany the article.
- Before the May 2 meeting of Toronto East York Community Council (TEYCC), HVRA sent a letter noting that (among other issues) the draft guidelines did not address the need for affordable housing, sufficiently protect green space, or consider existing standards for lot density. TEYCC discussed the guidelines at length and called for amendments.
Sue Dexter comments:
TEYCC has deferred City Planning’s report to the next TEYCC meeting to allow for a deeper examination of its recommendations. It appears affordable housing will not be created by the proposal. If building costs are $200,000 to $500,000, higher rents will be inevitable.
TOCore has been a four-year endeavour by all City departments to update the Official Plan for the Downtown— from Dupont to the Lake, Bathurst to the Don River—and prepare our part of the City for major intensification, doubling its population in the next 25 years while preserving its neighbourhoods. As Carolee Orme described it in the HVRA Spring 2016 Newsletter (pp. 10-11), TOCore aimed at ensuring that all elements of infrastructure would be aligned with this rapid grown in downtown residential population.
NOTE: Andrew Farncombe and Lori Flowers from City Planning gave the invited talk at the 2017 HVRA Annual General Meeting, summarizing intended directions for downtown planning. See the slides from this presentation here.
HVRA was a strong contributor to the TOCore discussions and will be the first area to implement a pilot project that could transform our streets. See below for notes on some of the topics on which HVRA has focussed and brought about results.
1. Ward Boundary Review
In September 2016, the City asked for public input on revising ward boundaries to reflect population density, offering only two options: either 44 or 26 wards. In a message of September 2016 to the TOCore committee, HVRA notes restrictions to public input in the consultation process. It had already sent a letter on May 2016, calling for an increase in the number of Councillors to keep representation more equitable. Read the two HVRA letters here.
OUTCOME (city documents): In November 2016, Council voted to increase the number of Councillors from 44 to 47, with one councillor for each ward. The new ward boundaries will be in place for the 2018 municipal election.
2. Tower Separation
At its meeting of 7 September 2016, Toronto East York Community Council considered a report on increasing the setback requirements for tall buildings in downtown areas. HVRA wrote to describe how our area is affected by proposals for apartment towers built very close together. Read the HVRA letter here.
OUTCOME (city documents): TEY Councillors agreed that separation between towers should remain at least 25 metres. Council accepted that recommendation in its meeting of 5 October 2016.
3. Improving Downtown Streets
Building on our Green Plan, Harbord Village will be the first neighbourhood to bring an important element of TOCore to life. The TOCore proposals include a long document about creation of improved public realm. One of the aims is to make city streets greener, pedestrian-focusssed, and sustainable—”complete” streets for downtown living.
Policy 7.3.13 calls for implementation that will “support community-based planning and design process, including the use of pilot projects to demonstrate and assess local benefits, impacts and use patterns of proposed improvements to parks and the public realm.” HVRA has been asked to be a community partner to begin quick implementation of a pilot project arising from the ideas outlined in these TOCore proposals. Watch for more news about this initiative.
Spadina Avenue Planning Study
Recognizing the changes already happening on this main street, in 2012 Toronto and East York Community Council asked Planning to review the policy context for Spadina Avenue from Front to Bloor. A staff report of 2014 called for a formal study, including a community consultation process.
That study was to begin in Fall 2016. It will have its own webpage on the City Planning website. HVRA representatives attended the first working group meeting and identified key issues of interest: movement (all forms of transportation), climate change mitigation, and finding some way of creating buildings that will have a Spadina face and a designed relationship to the community.
(Watch for more news in HVRA e-blast messages and on this webpage.)
The University of Toronto is a huge next-door neighbour, and its plans for building and rebuilding necessarily have an impact on our area. The CIty mandates that neighbouring resident associations have seats on a U of T Area Liaison Committee. HVRA’s representative Sue Dexter is kept busy monitoring development pressures. A special concern is green space.
U of T is currently framing several large development plans, including upgrades to landscape design and an application for rezoning that could transform the official “secondary plan” for the St. George campus. This page ends with a historical note outlining some of the past successes of the liaison committee in working with U of T.
Read more below, and watch for ongoing news. See also our page about U of T plans for a high-rise residence at Spadina and Sussex.
U of T is revitalizing its historic downtown campus, applying principles of greening and eco-responsibility. In 2015, it announced a competition (“Landscape of Landmark Quality”). Members of the public were invited to a presentation and to an exhibit displaying the designs submitted.
The design chosen for the front campus bans cars from King’s College Circle and surrounding areas, and incorporates walkways and gathering spaces amongst grass and trees. Parking for 400 cars will be built underground. The full announcement, with drawings, is available online.
Also proudly eco-friendly, a five-storey addition to Robarts Library will be built on the Huron St. side. It will incorporate an extensive green roof, rainfall recycling systems, low-emissions building materials and optimized energy efficiency. A story in the Winter 2016 issue of U of T Magazine gives more detail.
Work has already started on some greening projects. For its 50th anniversary in 2017, New College will have an updated portico on Willcocks St. near Huron, which will soften the entranceway between buildings and improve the landscaping along the Willcocks frontage. So will the new public sidewalk. Most existing trees next to the college will be preserved and others will be added, including a flowering dogwood, a linden, a tulip tree and a horse chestnut. An improved irrigation system will keep them watered. This project begins to rehabilitate the Willcocks-Huron intersection and extends the impact of the pedestrian-friendly Willcocks Commons east of Huron.
In Fall 2016, the University sent its overall plans for Secondary Development to Toronto City Council. That means that a formal process for rezoning the whole of the St. George campus is underway, reflecting ideas for future development. The U of T envisions redevelopment and infill in the northern and southwest sectors of the campus (yellow and blue in the diagram at left), with preservation of the oldest part of campus (green area). See the U of T website on the St. George Campus Secondary Plan for more on its vision for the area.
The rezoning process is expected to last more than a year. Documents for the ongoing application are available in their own City website. They include a series of studies on such matters as shade effects and energy efficiency, and describe intentions for height ranges and massing of new buildings.
HVRA has made detailed and thoughtful responses to this major planning process through participation on the U of T Liaison Committee. Presented below are an overview noting concerns with the range of heights proposed for new buildings, then two sets of incisive comments on specific sites based on group “walkabouts.”
HVRA Response to the University of Toronto Secondary Plan Proposal
By Carolee Orme and Sue Dexter, HVRA Planning and Development Committee, June 24, 2017
The University has put forward an application for a re-zoning of the 1997 St. George Campus Secondary Plan. There are improvements to the public realm and walkability of the campus. But there are worrisome elements in the plan.
To date, there have been two walkabouts [see the files attached below]. The first was on the southwest section of campus, described in the University document as a sector of ‘Western Expansion’. The second was around the proposed development sites on the north end of campus, between Queen’s Park and Spadina, excluding the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood, which has its own set of potential sites.
There are three issues: the number of sites, the permissive nature of the zoning applied for, and the potential intensification of building on campus. HVRA is concerned that specific heights are not defined, and could be out of keeping with existing buildings that are likely to be retained. Densities need to be defined. (NOTE for readers: One storey is slightly more than 3 metres, depending on residential or institutional use.)
The University’s proposal is under review with City Planning, the Councillor and the neighbourhoods, and will require Council approval.
Moving along Bloor from University to Spadina, the University has proposed six locations for major infill or tower additions.
Block O, Queen’s Park Cresc.
Context: includes Law, 30 m. and ROM, 25 m.
Proposed: Two sites, one includes a taller element.
Planetarium/Falconer Hall, height could be 12 metres stepping back to 48-66 metres
Edward Johnson Music Faculty, height could be 30 metres
Block N, along Bloor Street from Devonshire to St. George
Proposed: Three taller elements at three locations
Devonshire Place west side, over the loading bay of the High Performance Centre. Context: Munk Observatory 18 m., High Performance centre 23 m, Varsity stadium 26/48 m. New tower atop the loading bay of the High Performance athletic centre 48-73 m. Proposal could include a cantilever.
East side of St. George. Context: the Woodsworth residence tower at Bloor is 48-73 m. New tower at Woodsworth College to the south on the east side, could be 48-73 m.
West side south of Bata Shoe Museum. Context:house form west side of St. George. New tower should the University get permission to demolish the University Women’s Club, infill 32/48-73 m.
Block M, Proposed built form heights applied for St. George in general:
East side South to Hoskin 32-39 m.
From Women’s University site south to Sussex, including Innis College 32 m.
Block L, Large corner site at Spadina and Bloor, to the rear and west of UTS, including much of the parking lot. Varied height, with two taller elements in the building to occupy that site:
On Spadina, heights 48-93m.
On Bloor, 48-77 m.
On Huron, heights 26/48-77 m.
On Washington, 32/48-77 m.
In the Southwest, there are nine sites identified for taller elements in the University plan, with heights ranging from
Huron, St. George, Willcocks, Russell, campus interior 48-66 m.
Spadina frontage at Willcocks, 32 m.
This overview of the U of T preliminary plans finds lots of buildings with height ranges in the very tall category. Now read these two lively commentaries on specific sites and buildings. Sue Dexter and Carolee Orme sent them to the U of T Liaison Commitee after two group walks around campus, observing the current streetscape and previewing what might come.
- Notes on Southwest Area Walkabout, presented to U of T Liaison Committee, January 2017
- Notes on North Campus Walkabout, presented to U of T Liaison Committee, June 2017
For historical perspective, here is a 2004 account of the Liaison Committee’s work and its influence on U of T plans.
Living next to the University of Toronto is like being in bed with…
- Remember Varsity Stadium? 25,000 seats, rock concerts?
- Remember ROM South condo tower?
- Remember the historic house at the Bahen Centre on St. George?
- Want the green spaces preserved and enhanced at the university? We’re doing our level best.
Representing the community is the mandate of the City’s University of Toronto Area Liaison Committee.
The communities surrounding the University of Toronto St. George campus are deeply affected by the actions of the university and its sister institutions, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music.
In the 1990s, then-councillor the late Dan Leckie created a formal City committee, the University of Toronto Area Liaison Committee. It brought the three parties to the table: the university, representatives of the community, and the City, represented by City Planning and the sitting councillor. The mandate: to discuss any matters of common interest. The catchment area is Queen’s Park to Spadina, College to Bloor St.
Trees, landscape and construction conditions, buildings in general, planning, architecture, enrolment, student activities, parking, quality of life issues are all part of the liaison committee mandate. When our greater community interest is involved, HVRA, along with Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization and the Annex Residents Association, bring those issues to the liaison committee.
- Saved trees from damage and increased green space in university-proposed buildings.
- Negotiated $50,000 from the ROM’s Crystal Project for planting large trees in Philosopher’s Walk to compensate for lost trees.
- Got the Royal Conservatory of Music to reduce the footprint of its new concert hall by switching the direction of the hall to east-west, saving precious green space in Philosopher’s Walk.
- Negotiated protection for heritage buildings as a result of construction damage.