It ain’t over till it’s over

BBBD newsletter Oct 26 2019

Bloor Collegiate Institute, October 2019

Hello BBBD supporters! It has been a dizzying few weeks, with some major new developments – including an anticipated date of November 5 for the City to make its settlement with the developer public, and the revelation of a December 31 expiry date for the purchase agreement between the developer and Toronto Lands Corporation*.

*Toronto Lands Corporation is the real estate arm of the Toronto District School Board, which sold this public land out from under our neighbourhood back in 2016. 

Negotiations continue – calculators or community?

On October 2, BBBD met with representatives from Bloor-Dufferin Development Limited Partnership and the City’s Planning, Affordable Housing, and Social Development and Finance divisions, in a formal mediation process with land-use planning mediator James McKenzie. The issues discussed in mediation must remain confidential, but we can tell you that it was a very long day, with much intense discussion, and many calculators.

Bloor-Dufferin residents and BBBD Steering Committee members Maggie Hutcheson, Sean Fitzpatrick, Lynn Cepin, and Sean Meagher acted as BBBD’s mediation team. We also had the benefit of some expert advisors from the neighbourhood: Andrea Adams of St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society, Maureen Fair of West Neighbourhood House, Jacquie Thomas of Theatre Gargantua, Joshua Benard of Habitat for Humanity, and urban studies professor Emily Paradis.  

Though no settlement has come out of it, the mediation was a productive process that moved the conversation forward significantly. And we sure learned a lot about how things happen behind closed doors in major developments in Toronto – something few residents ever get to see. 

Even though mediation didn’t lead to a plan that satisfies BBBD’s demands for affordable housing, community space, and park space on this public land, we are still working to get a better plan in place ahead of the upcoming November 25 pre-hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board. Failing that, BBBD will request a full hearing – a process that could take up to a year.

We know the developer and the City are eager to settle on November 25 – especially given the recent revelation that the purchase agreement with Toronto Lands Corporation expires December 31, 2019 (check out the opinion piece on the expiry). Let’s hope this motivates them to consider the community, not just their calculators.

City preparing to settle for 2.6% affordable housing and a basement daycare – have your say at Community Council 

The City says it intends to bring a report about this development to Community Council in November or December, after which the planning approvals will go to City Council. 

The staff report will include recommendations about whether or not to approve the site as currently proposed, and details about the community benefits that the developer will be required to provide. In anticipation of the City report, the developer submitted a revised proposal just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 12 2019. Check the City’s Development Applications website for details. 

From BBBD’s meetings with the City in the weeks before mediation, we anticipate that the City is preparing to allow the development to go ahead with only 56 affordable units out of the 2124 luxury condos planned for the site. This is just 2.6% of the development for affordable housing, falling far short of the 20% BBBD has called for on this public land. To make matters worse, the few affordable units—all bachelors and one-bedrooms, unsuitable for families—will be grouped in a single small building across the street from the rest of the development. This flies in the face of all principles of inclusive community-building. 

It also looks like the City is planning to put the promised daycare in the basement of the former Kent School building, and limit the community hub space to the ground floor. Community space will total just 30,000 square feet, not the 70,000 square feet of services and arts space recommended by the Community Hub visioning group that consulted with hundreds of residents in 2017.

BBBD considers these minimal provisions for community benefits to be woefully inadequate – and from our summer survey results, we know that the neighbourhood agrees. [link to survey results] 

But in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over! These plans will come to Toronto and East York Community Council on November 5 or December 3. We won’t know the date for sure until the agenda is published online the week before – you can see meeting dates and agendas here.  Community Council is the opportunity for all of us to have input on the plan by making deputations or sending written submissions. We will keep you posted. 

—The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

Show your Neighbourhood love! BBBD Fundraiser 

Now that the federal election is over, does your front window or lawn seem empty without a sign? BBBD to the rescue! Our beautiful new signs are popping up all over the neighbourhood. Suitable for balconies, windows, or lawns, these signs send a message that neighbours of all political stripes can agree with – Dufferin and Bloor is for everyone! Suggested donation of $20. Proceeds will help to fund BBBD’s legal costs at the Ontario Municipal Board.

Is it best time runs out?

Despite being closed as a TDSB school, Kent Public is still used today for visual arts and language classes.

There is a possible Dec. 31/19 deadline for developers to get planning approval for luxury condo project.

OPINION:

The best might simply be that time runs out.

There may be a Dec. 31, 2019 deadline on the deal to sell the 7.3 acre site that includes Bloor Collegiate and Kent Public School for the development of luxury condo towers. Many hope we celebrate the New Year with that woeful deal expiring.

According to newly released documents about the sale, the Request for Offers by the Toronto Lands Corporation stipulated that if the $121 million deal to sell the lands to Bloor Dufferin Development Limited Partnership—a consortium of Capital, Metropia, and Timbercreek—isn’t approved by year end, either side can walk away without repercussions.

With the development mired in community controversy and little progress towards resolution, many in the community feel that it would be best the deal die.

When the sale was sprung on the public two years ago, Capital’s proposal to build a retail mall and four towers stretching to 47 stories was quickly met with derision. Documents released as part of a Freedom of Information request for the sale contract, reveal that developers were warned. The school board’s agent, the Toronto Lands Corporation, said clearly that developers were expected to pay significant attention to public input in the approval process. 

In meetings stretching back a decade, community groups, local BIAs, housing advocates, arts organizations and resident taxpayers insisted our school lands should not be sold without adequate provision for affordable housing, daycare, education, parks and community space.

That warning was not heeded by the developers. For example, they want to put a required day-care in the basement of Kent Public School. Provisions for a Hub/community centre are similarly dismal. The proposed park is a minuscule 0.6 acres and only 56 units of the proposed of the 2,124 luxury units are affordable housing, a pathetic 2.6%.

More recently, last month’s mediation sessions called for by the BBBD ended without an agreement. This, despite longstanding community demands that 20% of the proposed development be dedicated to affordable housing and Kent School fully utilized as community/daycare space.

It’s not as if the money isn’t there to build the services needed by the thousands of new residents who will live in the proposed high-rises. The average price of a condo in Toronto is now $600,000; multiply that by the 2,124 condo units proposed for our school lands and the total comes to a whopping $1.2 BILLION. Add another $500 million plus for the two-storey retail mall that will anchor the proposed towers and we’re looking at $1.7 BILLION dollars. Those knowledgeable about condo building costs have suggested profit from the development could be a stunning $750 million.

For comparison, the $121 million sale price, in $100 bills, would fill a Joe’s No Frill’s shopping cart; $1.7 BILLION in $100 bills would overflow a Sufferin’ Dufferin 29 articulated bus. The $750 million profit would fill … well none of the developers would ever have to ride the bus or shop at No Frills.

And the developers want to put our children’s daycare space in the basement. And there is little money or space for a hub or community centre. And affordable housing has been shafted with just 2.6% of units dedicated for that important community need. And the green space offered is minimal. And even those minimal conditions might not actually be contained in the sale contract.

It’s not as if all of those who bid on the property, this developer included, didn’t know how important those amenities were for our community. The newly released Request for Offers from 2016 clearly states that developers:

“will work co-operatively with all stakeholders towards a future vision for the Site including appropriate community and school benefits that can be integrated within a community hub (such as a child care centre), an integration of affordable housing, urban design, provision of open space, height and density as well as other planning matters.”

Of course, the community never knew of these requirements or that the sale depended on Capital working with the community. The Request for Offers was kept secret, until revealed under a community member’s Freedom of Information request. Developers who bid on the site had to sign a confidentiality agreement before even seeing the Request for Offers. The public was certainly not informed.

Similarly the Toronto Lands Corporation and the TDSB have refused any request to release the actual sale documents and what provisions they contain, citing developers’ need to keep their business private. We don’t even know if the actual sale documents and planning approval will actually contain those minimal community benefits.

Can you imagine selling your own house and having your real estate agent assert you have no right to know what the sale agreement actually says? All to protect the private business of the buyer?

The TLC now has an important decision to make. Should they agree to an extension? On the one hand, their mandate is to get maximum value from the sale of TDSB lands, and this land is now worth much more than it was in 2016—some estimates put the difference as high as $100 million. On the other hand, the TLC’s calculations could take into consideration the public benefits planned for the site.

The trouble is, the value of the affordable housing, community space, and parkland in the current proposal falls far short of $100 million. The developer will have to do much better if they want to show that an extension is in the public interest.

You might think the City of Toronto Planning Department would protect our interest. But they seem intent on completing this sale before the Dec. 31 deadline; behind closed doors, without any public input; never telling us what the “deal” actually involves. See the Build a Better Bloor Dufferin newsletter above for some information on what we do know.

You might think Ana Bailão, our city councillor, would refuse such an inadequate deal. After all Ana is Deputy Mayor and official Housing Advocate and …. an affordable housing advocate.

She faces immense pressure from developers to approve the many proposals city-wide, never mind those here in Davenport. The Bloor/Dufferin school lands is the place she should stand with the community and demand better, or let the deal expire.

Time is Running Out!

BBBD Calls Developers into Mediation Over Bloor Dufferin Site

Rainbow over Kent Public School, Sept. 23, 2019

After more than 20 meetings with the City, Councillor, and developers in the past year, BBBD has requested a mediation process. Talks stalled earlier this month when it seemed that the proposed settlement with the developer would create only a fraction of the affordable housing, community space, and green space that we know is achievable on the site. BBBD sees mediation as an opportunity to both demonstrate the viability of our community’s vision for the site and build a bridge to a workable solution. In hopes of arriving at an agreement quickly, we will go into mediation next week, on October 2nd.

We believe that the public land at Bloor and Dufferin has the potential to showcase an exciting new approach to redevelopment in Toronto that can help turn the tide on our housing crisis and the growing inequality in our city. Respected nonprofit housing developers have shown how we could build five times more affordable housing on the site than what’s currently on the table. We’ve endorsed a visionary plan that would see hundreds of units of affordable housing integrated into the 2,000 proposed condominiums, along with a beautiful, spacious community hub. This could be a new St. Lawrence neighbourhood—a truly inclusive community for residents across all income brackets, next to a subway station. What better use could we make of this public land?

The developers, in the meantime, are moving fast in the hopes of bringing a settlement to the next Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing on November 25th.  While we are hopeful about the mediation process, BBBD is prepared to use its party status at the OMB to stand up for community benefits like affordable housing, community space, green space and a successful rebuild of Bloor Collegiate.

We need your help to make this vision a reality. Scroll down to see how you can donate to help with BBBD’s legal costs. We also need your moral support! Wish us luck on Twitter, Facebook, or by email.

BBBD’s Community Survey

Our summer straw poll showed we are united over Housing, Parks, Community Space and Schools

We asked—and you answered! BBBD’s summer community survey garnered more than 125 responses from people of all ages (half under 40) and all living situations (60% owners, and 40% renters).

The results show how committed BBBD supporters are to keeping the Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood diverse, inclusive, and affordable.

Some highlights:

  • Your priorities for the site are the same as BBBD’s. When asked to rate aspects of the development on a scale from “not at all important” to “very important,” there was strong consensus about what is important to you:
    • Public park space (93%)
    • Community services (91%)
    • Arts & culture (91%)
    • Affordable housing (87%)
  • Almost two-thirds of the people surveyed say that at least 50% of the units should be affordable to people with average incomes—including one in seven who say ALL units should be.
  • Almost three-quarters of responses say that 20% or more of the units should be affordable for people on low incomes. In fact, one-third of all respondents want to see 50% or 100% deeply affordable units on the site. 
  • Almost three-quarters also say that 25% or more of the commercial space on the site should be for non-profit community services and arts organizations. 
  • 93% say the 0.6-acre public park the developer is proposing is too small. A large majority want to see at least 1 acre of public park on the site, and many want the current 2.7-acre green space on the site to be maintained.
  • Three-quarters want the TDSB and developer to find a way to keep Bloor Collegiate students in their school until the new school is built, instead of moving them to Central Tech in September 2020.
  • 85% say the current plan for the BCI rebuild is inadequate. Most want to see the new school have at least the same amenities as the current building, including an auditorium and pool, and they want it to accommodate more students as the neighbourhood grows.

Click on graph to enlarge

When asked to share their priorities, hopes, and worries about the site, survey respondents were eloquent and visionary. The range of passionate responses and exciting ideas show how important it is to engage community members throughout the process of redevelopment.

Here’s just a small sample:

I would like to see mix of housing that people from different backgrounds can access and will live in for many years. These might include young families who want to buy a home, older residents who are downsizing, renters and people with lower incomes. This type of housing will sustain the neighbourhood and the people who live here. I am concerned that the units will quickly become vacant or short-term rental spaces and used only as income properties. I understand the need for densification in Toronto but tons of people are getting pushed out of the area (or even the city) by developments. They’re not actually solving the larger housing issue.”

“Each of the suggested buildings should have a large green roof patio for the residents. There should be lots of small retail spaces to accommodate family businesses/ workshops or offices and some of those who will undoubtedly be displaced by this development. There are plenty of large retailers at Dufferin Mall. All buildings should be built to a high environmental standard with low energy use and emissions, easy access to recycling facilities and a large amount of bicycle parking. A daycare facility and space for after school programs.”

“[The park should be] At LEAST 2 acres with provisions for new tree planting and an area for a community garden. Initiatives across the country for large buildings have proven to be an effective way to build neighbourly relationships by way of sharing garden tending duties.”

“These are Indigenous lands and local Indigenous peoples need to be consulted on this project. Also, disabled people should be consulted to ensure that the space is physically accessible.”

“I would be more excited if I felt that the development included different types of housing that would address the shortages / inaccessibility / affordability in Toronto.”

“This could be an exciting addition to the neighborhood and an example of good development:

  • be truly Green (as the developers had in their initial advertising) 
  • serve Toronto’s diversity of incomes, family types, immigration periods
  • keep the landscape of small owner occupied stores – on ALL levels of retail.”

“A school that will accommodate the predicted student population projections for the coming decades. It must include amenities, like an auditorium for the arts, that will foster a diversity of skills for the students.”

“I’m not excited about the redevelopment because I don’t trust the developers to make considerate and thoughtful decisions for the neighborhood.”

“I love the diversity in our neighbourhood and how people know and look out for each other. I’m concerned this development will change that. Not to mention a staggering number of units in an area where the buses / subways are already packed and traffic at that intersection is a gong show.”

“[I am excited for] the potential to create incredible park space that has more qualities than the existing green space. The opportunity to get away from unaffordable, private condos, and a quick, expensive build, like the rest of the city and the chance to actually make a meaningful project that serves the community (which this doesn’t look like it is doing at all yet).”

“I am concerned that the site will just be another condo and retail space that prices out the people who currently live and work in the neighbourhood, continuing the segregation of lower income and otherwise marginalized people further and further towards the outskirts of the city and away from public transit. I am concerned that the developer might care more about short term profit than the health of our city.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! 

We will be sharing all the survey results with our Councillor, City staff, and the developer.

It’s not too late to have your say—take a few minutes to add your voice here.

Accept the City’s best offer?

BCI Closing September 2020, do we accept the City’s ‘ best offer’ at the LPAT?, Big on Bloor and a Community Award

Bloordale residents chat with BBBD volunteer Jacqueline Larson (left) in the tent’s shade at Big on Bloor. It was the hottest day of the year and development was a hot topic.

Dear Neighbours,

It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us. We’ve been quiet only because we’ve been so busy, in countless meetings with our City Councillor and the developers to stay in active dialogue about what our community wants and needs. Here are some highlights of recent weeks.

Bloor Collegiate students to move out in 2020

Students of Bloor Collegiate Institute (BCI) found out this spring that the entire school’s population will be relocated to Central Tech in Sept., 2010, before the new BCI gets built.

In the heated 28 May meeting about the move, parents and students responded with outrage to the fact that the TDSB knew for years that this relocation would occur and knew the timeline written in the deal but hid it from the community until very recently. The scheduled September 2020 removal of students meets the developers’ “needs” but students are concerned about its impact on their high school experience and residents are unhappy that the proposed new school will have fewer amenities for an anticipated larger number of students (especially considering the high-density developments going up in the neighbourhood).

Keeping up the pressure 

BBBD has party standing in the LPAT hearing for the TDSB lands at the southwest corner of Dufferin and Bloor. The next prehearing is scheduled for November but the developers aim to have the deal passed through City Council in October. BBBD will oppose a vote to settle at City Council unless significant gains are made over the next two months. Given that there still isn’t a plan for affordable housing or a community hub on the site, it’s hard to see how the community’s needs will be met by October.

Please fill out our Summer Survey

Now is an important time to keep up the pressure. You can support us by sharing your hopes for the site in this survey: https://bit.ly/2LZ9U4r. It will give us evidence that residents want to see community benefits on the site, such as affordable housing, space for arts organizations and community services, and a large public park. This land was bought and paid for by taxpayers. People who live, work, and go to school in the neighbourhood want this public land to be used for public benefit.

And of course, please let our City Councillor know what you want to see on this site. She needs to hear from as many of our neighbours as possible so that she can represent us accurately!  Councillor Ana Bailão:  416-392-7012, email, or web.

Big on Bloor

We had a booth at last week’s annual Bloordale festival on 20 July, the hottest day of the year. BBBD volunteers heard from many residents and visitors who are still just learning about the sale of the TDSB land and the developers’ plans for multiple condo towers at Bloor and Dufferin. People expressed alarm, anger, and sadness when they learned about the paucity of affordable housing and reduced community and green space in the proposed plan. And then many offered to help. We have such a great neighbourhood!

BBBD wins community development award!

Maureen Fair (left) Executive Director of West Neighbourhood House, introduces BBBD’s (from left to right) Lynn Cepin, Maggie Hutcheson, and Emily Paradis.

On 20 June West Neighbourhood House honoured Build a Better Bloor Dufferin with the Sir James Wood award for community development. With a cheque for $1,000, the award recognizes an individual or group who, among other things, “works at making change and community impact; goes above and beyond the call of duty towards the betterment of society; has demonstrated the ability to provide leadership and vision which promotes community development and has a commitment to improving the quality of life in their community.” Maureen Fair, the executive director of West Neighbourhood House, said the award “is so well-deserved—you are an amazing group of people fighting persistently for our community.”

Stay cool, enjoy the summer and our wonderful neighbourhood and don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to get involved in our work.

Sincerely,

The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

Sufferin’ Dufferin 29

Our favourite bus route gets some needed attention

Opinion

TTC Riders, a transit advocacy group, has stirred up a storm about our favourite bus route…the Sufferin’ Dufferin 29. That’s what one protestor wrote on a sign at a July 25 morning rush hour demonstration at the Dufferin station.

TTC Riders are concerned about a report, prepared by transit staff, which said the Dufferin 29 was the most overcrowded bus route in the entire system. At peak times it operates at 120% of capacity. A close follow-up? You guessed it, the Lansdowne.

TTC Riders, a grassroots transit advocacy organization, calls for a number of funding options for the TTC and dedicated bus lanes on busy routes such as the Dufferin bus routes. 

Here’s a City TV report on the TTC Riders demonstration:

Anna Lemer of TTC Riders

And here’s one by CTV Toronto:

Chris Fox , CTV News Toronto

Which brings us back to the two massive developments proposed for the corner of Bloor Dufferin and questions about why those two developments don’t take transit into consideration.

Up at the Dufferin Galleria site provision has been made for buses to pull off of Dufferin Street and into the parking lot where they can load and unload….and buses can be short turned if needed.

Why, at Bloor and Dufferin are buses expected to load and unload on the street? Shouldn’t there be provisions for buses to pull off of Dufferin Street and load and unload at protected loading platforms. That would sure improve car and truck traffic flow on both Dufferin and Bloor.

Even better why shouldn’t the buses get off of Dufferin Street and make a wide arch around this new planned community….making a stop in front of the new apartment and condo towers, continuing on to a stop in front of Walmart and ending the loop in front of Joe’s No Frills?

Isn’t easy transit access a main requirement for a well-planned community?

Since both of the developers involved (Capital Developments for the condos on the school lands and Primaris for the mall apartments) are advertising their developments with easy access to transit shouldn’t they step up with some innovations?

Sure, there’s talk of a tunnel under Bloor Street to connect new residents on the southern developments to the subway just north of Bloor, but precious little else.

The scrape of green space allotted for the ill-named Dufferin Common park that sits across from the Dufferin Mall entrance is described by Primaris as little more than a waiting room for the Dufferin 29 bus. Isn’t this the perfect place for a bigger and better Dufferin Grove Organic Market?

Couldn’t Primaris offer to build and maintain the site but let the people at the Grove’s organic market run it? Maybe the much vaunted design people at Urban Strategies could design some nice tent domes to shade the vendors.

Sure, we’d all miss strolling beneath the canopy of trees which shelter the overflowing vegetable stalls rink at this time of year. But those wonderful canopy trees near the hockey rink would probably thank us for stopping the weekly influx of vans and trucks compressing their tree roots.

And maybe we could expand the market to two days a week. Or….a Christmas market featuring local artisans?

-Joe McAllister

Dufferin Mall Towers

Formal application to city reveals Liberty Village II

OPINION

Dufferin Mall has formally submitted an application to build four apartment towers on its parking lot. And the July 8 submission to the City Planning Department looks worse than we had hoped.

The massive apartment complex proposed will have a much bigger presence on Dufferin and Croatia Streets than many anticipated. On the west, overshadowing Brockton Stadium, will be a six storey retail and commercial complex. On the east, facing Dufferin Street, and replacing the existing fast-food stores, will be an eight story retail/commercial building.

Towering from these two massive pedestals will be four apartment towers—39 and 34 stories on the west and 23 and 14 stories on the east. There will be 1,135 rental units: 117 bachelor, 452 one bedroom, 461 two bedroom, 105 three bedroom.

For comparison, the tallest building at Bloor and Dufferin right now is the New Horizon’s Tower at just 15 stories. The mall towers will be matched with the 40-storey behemoths slated for the school lands.

Primaris Management, which owns Dufferin Mall, is a well-regarded manager and owner of shopping malls. (Dufferin Mall is one of the most profitable malls in the GTA.) Quadrangle and Urban Strategies have been involved in the building of a number of Toronto landmarks. Both should be ashamed of their squinted vision for the Dufferin Mall apartments, which will be a major addition to our community.

The massive six and eight story pedestal buildings proposed in their submission, hulk over Dufferin and Croatia Streets. There is no set-back to the pedestal buildings, no extra space for sidewalks and people.

Neither Primaris nor Urban Strategies wants such a desolate, cramped area. They well know that retail success for the businesses which will rent space along Dufferin and Croatia Streets will demand space for people to shop and dine and stroll.

The only reason developers make applications to build to the legal limit is to game the planning system.

Here’s how the con works: a developer proposes building right to the limits of what is allowed: the community complains: developer agrees to a setback: and then claim they have listened to the community or city planning department so should be allowed to overbuild the property. The con works every time.

Don’t believe me? Then believe what Urban Strategies wrote about Dufferin Commons.

That’s the name the Urban Strategies has attached to the patch of “nature” they have devoted to park space. Located at the entrance to Dufferin Mall, the “park” or “commons” is roughly the size of Micheli’s Garden centre, which sets up each spring to sell bedding plants. (There is no recognition that west-end Toronto is one of the most green-space deficient areas in the GTA.)

In its formal application for city permission to exceed our planning policies Urban Strategies admits the minuscule park space “also lends itself (to) act as an improved transit-waiting area along the 29 Dufferin route.”

That’s great: Instead of adding to our parkland we’ll get a nice bus station. We’ll all be comfortable waiting for the Dufferin 29 bus: if it ever comes and isn’t overcrowded due to the new condo and apartment developments.

Still not convinced? Consider the paucity of three-bedroom apartments. Just 10% of the proposal is for three-bedroom apartments. Three-bedroom apartments are family friendly: two kids, each with their own bedroom or a bedroom for an aging parent. Local families looking for bigger apartments won’t ever be able to afford Dufferin Grove Common if all of the three-bedroom apartments are clustered in the  luxury penthouses of the four towers.

Shouldn’t the community have expected better from Primaris, Quadrangle and Urban Strategies?

-Joe McAllister