In My Opinion: Councillor Bradford should listen and enforce Queen Street East development rules

This photo is looking at the redevelopment site at 1631 Queen St. E. from the Eastern Avenue perspective. An 18-storey building fronting Eastern Avenue is part of the proposal.


Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford’s latest attack against opponents of the 18-storey skyscraper on Queen (i.e., Beaches Residents Association of Toronto) which appeared in the Aug. 24 edition of Beach Metro News is disappointing. Particularly because his modus operandi is to use Trumpian tactics instead of listening and addressing our assertions constructively.

Our petition already has more than 1,400 names, yet we are accused of being fake news. Very Trumpy.

Bradford uses vague assertions, such as saying 18-storeys is somehow “consistent” with the “objectives” of the guidelines for Queen. Very Trumpy.

Bradford claims it won’t set a negative precedent, but Premier Doug Ford has revived the old OMB under the name Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and the City’s planners haven’t yet presented any planning reports to Council. Bradford makes wild promises he cannot keep. Very Trumpy.

Bradford never cites specific examples of where we spread “lazy half-truths.” Very Trumpy.

Regarding the site which is 80 metres deep (at just one point), it has been said the tall buildings are set almost 100 metres back from Queen Street. That cannot be so. But mistakes are never admitted or apologized for.

It is misinformation to say there are “no similar sites.” The LCBO/Pet Valu site is also 80 metres deep, and it is impossible to ignore the entire block east of Kishago Lane, with the cinemas and new concert venue. This block could potentially be redeveloped with 18-storey towers, once current leases end. The neighbouring Toronto Community Housing site could also be developed to 18 storeys.

As for fear, nobody objects to affordable housing at 1631 Queen St. E., or elsewhere in the Beach. TCHC and non-profit cooperatives have long been an accepted part of our community.

While Toronto Council must follow the Planning Act in processing CreateTO’s application, Council has a conflict of interest. HousingNow is its own pet project and the City has a financial stake in how much density is approved.

Approving higher density on lands the City owns in order to be able to sell that land to a developer for more money is a clear conflict.

In effect, the City wants to triple the height to maximize the density, to reduce the amount of money needed to fund rental housing.

This skyscraper is something it would never approve on Queen Street East for private developers or non-profits. Planning principles are going out the window.

Bradford can quote potential low rents, but this project likely benefits from other monies both federal and provincial governments are throwing around to build “affordable housing” or subsidize rents anywhere (vouchers perhaps?). Yet, 140 units is a drop in the bucket compared to the GTA’s population growth of more than 120,000 a year.

There’s secrecy, not transparency, around the economics of this project, which will be a private-public partnership (“P3”). It is hard for citizens to be “informed” or accept the wisdom of the HousingNow approach when the project is a financial black box. P3s are controversial because often the public gets shortchanged, and some lucky developer could make a killing selling penthouses with lake views.

If this project follows the pattern of some others, then the rental housing the City gets could be for as little as 20 years, and eventually all rental units revert to the developer. Long term, the City is left with little in return for valuable land.

Even though the portion of 1631 Queen St. E. proposal fronting on Queen has been reduced from eight to six storeys, CreateTO claims that extending the 45-degree angular plane upwards and back, higher than six storeys, is consistent with the guidelines and Official Plan policies for Queen.

While this proposal might set the additional height away from Queen by 27 metres, the risk is that the clear six-storey height limit will be destroyed on all of Queen.

The precedent will be that the 45-degree angular plane is all that limits heights, and nothing will stop buildings of seven to 11 storeys closer to Queen Street, because the 27-metre stepback for extra height is arbitrary and unenforceable.

Instead of attacking constituents who are better informed than he is, Bradford should listen, then force CreateTO to meet the letter of the same rules that have applied to other redevelopments on Queen Street East since 2013.

Brian Graff is the President of the Beaches Residents Association of Toronto

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