Queen Street Visioning Study comes to an end

The final public meeting in the Queen Street East Visioning Study process was held on Sept. 19 at the Toronto Fire Academy, with a vocal group representing a number of local interests taking part. A draft of the proposed new Urban Design Guidelines was presented by James Parakh, the city’s Urban Design Program Manager. Also on hand were representatives from the city’s Heritage, Planning, Operations, Transportation and Engineering departments, as well as from the TTC and the Parking Authority.

Nicole Swerhun, who has been the facilitator in charge of running the meetings as part of the study process, began by praising the energy the participants have brought to the process, but also pointed out that much of what the community is looking for – including improved sewers and infrastructure, and solutions to traffic, parking and transit issues – fall outside of the scope of the study.

“You’re going to have to continue your advocacy,” she said.

Swerhun also acknowledged that many participants would not necessarily agree with everything in the proposed guidelines; however, considering the range of opinions present in the room, pleasing everyone isn’t possible.

The draft guidelines split Queen Street into three areas: the Woodbine, Kew and Balmy Beach precincts. Many of the suggestions apply to the entire stretch, from Coxwell to Neville Park.

According to the draft guidelines handed out at the last meeting, connection to (or “synergy” with) the physical beach should be preserved, including north/south views on streets south of Queen.

New developments should include existing characteristics, such as recessed business doorways. They should also be designed so they don’t restrict the possibility of restaurant use, so they should be able to accommodate mechanical and air handling units as well as garbage storage.

Continuous surface walls are to be discouraged, to maintain the small scale of the street. Treatments should fall into a six to 12 metre “rhythm.” A number of architectural elements and building details are outlined in the guidelines as well.

Business and residential entrances should be easily distinguished. Buildings should also use high quality materials – untreated materials, such as exposed concrete block, should not be used even for side walls. Balconies facing Queen should be recessed.

Shadow studies were undertaken to arrive at the required setbacks from the front and rear property lines both west and east of Woodbine. To the west, street-facing walls, or ‘streetwalls’, will be a maximum of 12.5m. Anything above that height, to a maximum of 20m, will be set back at an angle of 45˚. Existing areas classed as ‘Neighbourhoods’ – areas of houses on the north side of Queen – are not encouraged for any development.

East of Woodbine, streetwalls are to be 9.5m tall, with a fourth floor set back 3m, and any remaining storeys should be set back so that a person standing on the opposite side of the street will see a building that appears to be four storeys. The rear of the buildings are to be set back at 45˚ for anything over three storeys. Corner buildings between Woodbine and Glen Manor are to have 45˚ set backs over three storeys for the side facing the north/south street.

A number of architectural styles are named, including Late Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Queen Anne Style, Art Deco and Style Moderne, and Modern Brick Vernacular. There are also environmental standards to be incorporated in new buildings, known as the Toronto Green Standard.

Finally, special note was made of the views of the fire hall clock tower. Views of the tower are to be maintained from the sidewalk at the northeast corner of Queen and Woodbine. It should be noted that, by virtue of geometry, views from the northwest corner would also be preserved along with those from the northeast corner.

A number of concerns were raised by meeting attendees. One of the most prominent was the question of whether the guidelines would be enforced by the planning department.  Parakh said if adopted, the guidelines would be supported by staff, and will be “defensible” at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), should a proposal outside of the guidelines require a hearing.

“Should council adopt these guidelines, then we will be maintaining these guidelines in our recommendations to council,” he said.

Answering questions from the crowd, city planner Leontine Major said the proposed building at the northwest corner of Queen and Woodbine will be held to these guidelines, as will any other buildings that don’t yet have approval. Unfortunately for many in the crowd, that means the six-storey building planned for 1960-1962 Queen St. E. – known as the Lick’s development – is, so far, going ahead as planned, barring any surprise decisions at the OMB.

Concerns about the nature of the architectural instructions were raised, although some thought they were too strict, while others thought they were not strict enough. Parakh said he believes the instructions were a good balance.

“I think there’s enough flexibility written into these guidelines, but also enough guidance,” he said.

Some, including members of the Beach Residents Association of Toronto, believe the whole Visioning Study process is unnecessary, and that former guidelines for the Beach would be sufficient if the planning department would enforce them over the Avenues study often used by developers at the OMB.

Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who requested the study from council, believes Queen Street will be better off with a fresh set of guidelines that the planning department is willing to apply and enforce.

“I never would have asked for this visioning study if I didn’t believe in it. I never would have asked to spend taxpayer dollars for it if I didn’t believe we could find common ground,” she said.

McMahon also said the study was only “chapter one” in dealing with issues on and near Queen Street – meetings to deal with infrastructure concerns will be set for the near future, once the new guidelines have been voted in by council.

East End history expert and Beach Metro News columnist Gene Domagala said he believed the process could be used as a model elsewhere in the city, although most areas don’t have the wealth of history and heritage that has so far survived on Queen Street East and in the Beach.

“I think the draft is pretty good in essence,” he said. “It’s good to see they’re actually listening to the community.”

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I want to start by saying it is wonderful that the Beach Metro is providing coverage of this meeting and trying to keep the community well informed – planning can be a dull issue to some, but this has huge implications for current and future residents of The Beach, and even the whole City.

Our position is not that the Visioning Study is not needed. An update and review is a good thing, but that this is not what we are getting.
Our position is not fully carved in stone – others involved with us might not fully agree with this, but I think that the following is a good description:

-it goes too far in moving away from the existing guidelines, particularly the “3 storeys” rule,
-that 3 precincts are more about how people view the neighbourhoods as social constructs, rather reflecting the actual architecture we have, or want (the 1988 du Toit study divides the area up into much smaller areas – almost block by block)
– that the traffic and other studies must be done BEFORE going down the road of adding more density, people, cars etc.
– that increasing the density will set off a flurry of development that will ruin the charm and character of the area, and might destroy the heritage integrity of the area – we want to have an HCD

A full avenue Study is what the Official Plan eventually requires for all Avenues. The process is also flawed in terms of being too rushed and likely the result could be far better if we had more time – too much time was spent on deciding just on having 3 precincts, and not enough in looking at hwat is here and what works and what doesn’t!

A few clarifications though:

At the OMB, there is either the 2010 Avenues & Midrise Buildings Study, or an Avenues Segment Review study, or an Avenue Study – I am not sure which one you were describing.

– The 2010 Avenue & Midrise Study applies on most Avenues in the Official Plan – Queen Street from the DVP east to VP was removed, and it does not apply here!
– An Avenue Study is eventually required on every Avenue – this includes studies of traffic and the whole thing is done by the city or consultants it hires. The only time an Avenues is not supposed to have one is if the zoning and everything is already appropriate.
– Until a full Avenue study is done, for every rezoning, the developer is supposed to do an Avenue segment Review Study, which is supposed to include traffic and other studies.

The Segment Study for Lick’s didn’t include all the proper studies. Contrary to the OP, One Rainsford did not have any Segment Study at all, and the one for 200 Woodbine is supposedly not a full one, because the local planner(s) again made this decision to not require a full one be done – because they say there are not enough units in the proposed building. however, the reason for such studies is to look at how this will be a precedent for future development, and the impact from that precedent being set – not just to look at the building proposed alone.

If you aren’t asleep from reading this long response yet, please visit our website at http://www.beachresidents.ca or contact us and we are happy to discuss this any residents who want to know more or express their views to us.

Support of any kind for our OMB appeal of Lick’s (1960 Queen) is also needed!

Brian Graff, of The Beach Residents Association of Toronto (BRAT)

As a resident of Kippendavie Avenue a one-way running south of Queen I find this entire issue perplexing. Judging by the 60 unit mega condo that is now under construction on my street it seems obvious that there are no rules for right-sized development whatsoever – just a lot of “public consultation”. MacMahon is a nice lady but let’s face it – she is so far out of her league squaring off against these well heeled developers that they are running her like a puppet.

Condo-mania has run roughshod over Toronto – largely based upon foreign speculators. The crash is imminent and this is the only event that will save our community. Our politicians certainly won’t – they already blew all of our money sinking us into massive debt and are now selling away our communities to make the credit card payments.

Sorry for presenting this vision of reality.

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