Let Ossington Grow – 109 Should Be Built

109oz

While this post and the constant stream of comments have been excellent for our site traffic (thank you!), Brian and I have decided to close the comments on this post. It’s been open for two days, people have had a fair chance to state their opinions, and we have linked to all the possible places where you can read the same comments and more.

In this two days, we have witnessed:

  7  commenters supporting our position (over 11 posts),
12  commenters against (over 40 posts),
857 words used in support of our position,
7344 words used against our position
15 retweeters supporting our position,
2 retweeters opposing our position,
2 emails asking us to approve their comments the second after they’ve been sent, and
1 threat of libel and loss of friendship.

Brian and I have day jobs and we created this blog to support the community by promoting local businesses and positive community support.  We’d like to return to doing just that. Thanks for continuing to read this blog.

Melinda and Brian

 

Our neighbourhood, as one prominent Toronto writer privately noted, is tainted – people outside are beginning to view the neighborhood as anti-business and anti-development. At this blog we decided it’s time to take a stand against this taint. We have restrained our opinion on the current development proposal at 109 Ossington – the heart of the battle – choosing to simply report on the facts of the battle to the extent we’ve thought it important. Based on discussions we’ve had with locals, travels to much other urban centres, and recent events throughout our city, we decided that needed to change. It is time that we state our opinion on this project and development in general.

This perception of taint stems from a small group of local residents calling themselves the Ossington Community Association (OCA). The group was founded by a couple of university professors who in 2009 successfully lobbied Joe Pantalone to implement a moratorium on Ossington of new food service establishments (the same ones they now claim create the character of the street). They continue their active no-growth lobby today through the group they founded, the OCA. They are highly active writers who litter every article written on the subject with dozens of extended comments, and post endless letters to the editors of the publications. In so doing, have built a perception of their group being larger than the few active residents who comprise it. The group has been intransigent, tone-deaf to local planners, city experts and many of the local businesses who have told them they don’t agree with their position, and possess a frightening schadenfreude toward the local developers. (Their Facebook group currently has a gleeful post about falling condo sales in the city).

Our belief is that Ossington, like Toronto, needs to grow. In the years we’ve written this blog and become increasingly involved in the community through Jane’s Walks and other events, we’ve noted that what happens in Toronto in general happens on Ossington. That means the bad as well as the good, like the recent anti-condo crusade spreading across the city.

As a community, we can and should have a say in this city. We don’t dismiss the hard work Mike Layton has done trying to bring the community together, but how we vote on what we want is with our pocketbooks. Economics and fundamental city planning needs to drive these decisions We need to let entrepreneurs build their businesses, and let them fail if they can’t build them well. We’ve seen a number of businesses in the last few years try to build on the street and we haven’t legislated their failure, we just haven’t shopped there. Whether the developers of 109 Ossington and Motif succeed or fail should be on the success of their business plan, not on whether we decide to legislate or lobby them out of our community. We believe the small six story development would be a strong addition to the neighbourhood, bringing more invested residents downtown to an area where the housing market prices are out of reach of what many who want to live here can afford.

Neighborhoods like ours grow thanks to small bars and restaurants and art galleries. Some of these may move on when the rents get high, and that is something we as a community ultimately can’t control. We had the opportunity, with Mike Layton’s planning study, to positively guide those we want to move to our neighborhood, and influence what changes they made. Unfortunately, the vocal OCA refused to listen to other opinions or allow for mature compromises. We believe it’s time to stand up for the people who want change and want to live in a vibrant evolving community that welcomes outsiders and growth.

We want our neighbourhood and, correspondingly the city we live in, to remain one of growth and entrepreneurship, inclusion, and artistic openness.

Over six years ago, when we made this area our home, the Ossington strip was run down. There were a few businesses who braved the dangers of the neighbourhood, and the lack of traffic, to serve the residents. We can now look back and salute people like Pol from Sweaty Bettys (and The Sparrow, which was the prior restaurant before Delux), Tom Thai from Foxley, and many others who took financial and personal risks in an unproven neighborhood to build their businesses and Ossington itself into a place where people want to live and play. We were impressed that this neighbourhood grew despite roadblocks put up by a few stubborn local residents opposed to change. The area was built thanks to entrepreneurs taking chances, and we feel these are values we need to reward in Toronto if we want our city to keep competing in an international economy.

When we moved here six years ago we were warmly welcomed into the neighborhood by residents and business owners alike. We want to continue to extend that welcome to new residents to the neighbourhood – whether they move into houses currently being sold for a million dollars, or whether they buy or rent small, one-bedroom condos yet to be built. Those are people we welcome to downtown to ensure our neighbourhood has a diversity of residences and residents. The entrepreneurs, artists, producers, musicians, chefs, gallery curators and show promoters bring the change and are the reason Ossington has thrived. With such a wide range of arts, why wouldn’t we embrace architecture?  The concept at 109 is both innovative and created by a local, Roland Colthoff at Raw Design.

We spend a lot of time talking to local residents and business owners. Those conversations inform us that the majority of the neighbourhood does not agree with the Community Association. They assume that city planners will do their jobs and let the city grow organically based on current guidelines, taking community input into account, and then let economics chips fall where they will.

There have only been a few times where we’ve had to take a stand on an issue. The first, and the impetus behind the founding of the blog, was our opposition to the restaurant moratorium. This has become another issue where we need to state our opinion.  Ossington and Toronto are going to grow. 109 Oz should be built. Many others agree.

Editors Note: Comments may be moderated for reasons stated above. 

 

  • Argyle St. Resident

    Thank you, I think the majority of us do welcome more options in the neighbourhood. The buildings will bring with them more ammenities – and hopefully one day soon we’ll be able to run out a grab a tomato on Ossington when we need it:)

  • Tania

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, not so sure about your facts though!

  • rsblythe

    Brian, respectfully, I must disagree with your premises. To my knowledge, none of the members OCA were behind the interim control bylaw; they quite like the restaurants. As for the bylaw itself, I think it was necessary to prevent Ossington from becoming party central, like the Entertainment District (which is now being condo-ized out of existence.)

    Secondly, OCA members are not anti-business. They welcome new business — as long as it fits into the community. 109OZ can fit into the community, if it respects the character and built form of Ossington and not try to overpower its neighbours.

    Thirdly, if entrepreneurs fail on Ossington, well that’s the way the cookie crumbles. You faithfully chronicle businesses that have come and gone, from Watusi to Paramour, Frantic City to Cabo Verde. It’s a fact of life. Entrepreneurs take risks. One risk they shouldn’t take is offending their customer base …. or their neighbours.

    OCA isn’t anti or pro-business, so far as I can see, nor against change and intensfication. Ir is concerned about seeing the neighbourhood evolve coherently, rather than chaotically.

    The principles for opposition to the current proposal for 109Oz are very simple: size, safety and shopping. Clever developers (and their architects) can satisfy those concerns.

    Sincerely,

    Scot

  • Dear Brian:

    There’s no rule that says we all have to agree on everything, and you’re of course perfectly within your rights to express a contrary view.

    While I can’t speak for anyone else in the working group or the OCA, however, I feel that your post, as initially worded, does a grave disservice not only to Benj and Jessica, but to the other people who have been involved in the reaction to the 109 proposal and the neighbourhood area study.

    You have, I think, mischaracterized the work of the group as “no-growth” and part of a city-wide “anti-condo crusade.” I don’t believe that’s part of our outlook; on the contrary, I can only reiterate that I welcome growth and intensification along the Ossington strip for all the reasons I’ve set out in our meetings: more foot traffic, a population density consistent with the level required to make public transit economically viable, greater diversity and demographic variety, enough daytime traffic to support a greater variety of businesses, meaningful progress away from private automobiles as the dominant form of transportation. It’s not a stretch, I think, to suggest that neighbourhood sentiment is broadly in line with those objectives.

    There’s nothing that says those desirable impacts can’t be achieved by a condo. Again, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not part of an anti-condo crusade, and I don’t believe anyone else involved in the process is either. I would be happy to see the 109 site developed in a way that makes it a vibrant and organic part of the neighbourhood. Obviously we differ in our views of the scale of Reserve’s proposal and its potential impacts.

    We can disagree, of course, over whether the 109OZ plan is appropriate for Ossington, but I don’t think your portrayal of the OCA, the working group, or its members is fair or accurate. 

    Faithfully,

    Sol

  • Jessica Wilson

    Hi Brian,
    You are welcome to your opinion, of course, but some clarification of the facts is in order.

    There are over 400 members of the OCA, and over 2100 signatures on the Keep Ossington Lowrise petition. As you know, City Planning is set to disapprove the 109OZ proposal, and Layton has already tabled a motion for the City to provide legal counsel to defend the City’s and the Community’s position at the OMB.

    So evidently it isn’t just a “small group” of residents fronted by a couple of university professors who are behind the enormous opposition to the hulking, community-crashing 109OZ.

    It may also be worth noting that neither I, nor Benj, nor the OCA, nor the thousands of people who signed the petition, are “anti-growth”. We are happy for Ossington to grow and develop in a way that doesn’t decimate the distinctive character of Ossington’s business district, among other goods, in the process.

    We also just met with various planners and urban designers at City Hall and the City is going to try to implement an Official Plan Amendment that will preserve the distinctive low-rise human scale character of Ossington.

    So City Planning, Urban Design, the Councillor’s office, hundreds of OCA members, and thousands of individuals living around and/or enjoying Ossington, are on the side of preserving the wonderful character of Ossington. Indeed, even Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, has said that we can meet all of Toronto’s growth targets by building mid-rise on the designated Avenues. Ossington is not an Avenue—it’s a narrow, main-street pedestrian eddy and destination district, and it is not one of the areas targeted by the Official Plan for intensification. It’s a wonderful, distinctive part of Toronto, whose cultural and other amenties are in crucial part constituted by its quirky low-rise, human-scale, town-square, feel. To see how fundamentally 109OZ departs from the existing built form context and all the goods that it enables, check out the following overhead views of the proposal (which is only trivially changed in the revision presented to the Visioning Process Workgroup): http://www.scribd.com/doc/109555668/Views

    These are the facts. Brian, you and others can misrepresent the facts, but that won’t make them go away.
    In community,
    Jessica

  • rsblythe

     We used to be able to do that, before the trendy stores and restaurants moved in. I’ve been down here since 1993, and noted the closure of two greengrocers, one butcher shop and one fishmonger.

  • Jessica Wilson

    Thanks for publishing my comment, Brian; I appreciate your doing so.  Again, I want to emphasize that the many—literally, thousands—who are opposed to 109OZ are not “anti-growth”—on  the contrary, we welcome it.  We simply want growth to occur in a way that is not negatively destabilizing to the hood’s business, residential, or school districts.  Is that so wrong? 🙂

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I think you give a very accurate, clear and well-founded position as to why Ossington should be allowed to grow in a compatible way, which, in my opinion, 109OZ does quite well. The ‘Ossington Community Association’ as they have so cleverly named themselves, speaks, as you say, as one voice, the ‘pro-low-rise voice’. 

    I have been to community meetings, and even went to an OCA meeting this month, trying desperately to voice my opinion which comes from a planning and urban design background, as well as one of common sense. Each time I have voiced a concern, it has not been included in minutes, or formed any of the recommendations for the Ossington Area Study. Thanks again for being the voice of other residents that haven’t been able to openly share their side of the story.

    The argument should not be ‘keep it low-rise’, it should be focused on innovative and sustainable urban design principles, where diversity and inclusivity are at the core.

  • DonGivens

    Wait? You are not anti-business but you are complaining about trendy stores and restaurants moving in and – yikes – changing things? You people need to get your stories straight because you are already contradicting yourselves.

  • Lacey, you are perfectly welcome to attend meetings and voice your opinion. But it’s quite a leap to argue that, because your opinion isn’t shared by everyone else, the OCA (which I do not speak for, by the way) is necessarily anti-growth or part of an anti-condo crusade, or that you haven’t been able to openly share your side of the story. If your dissenting view wasn’t reflected in the minutes, I’d like to think we’re open to revisiting them accordingly.

    Perhaps I’m reading the views of the community wrong, and perhaps I’m filtering them through my own lens, but I don’t believe anyone is arguing against diversity, inclusion, or innovative and sustainable urban design. We’re all in favour of good design, but that shouldn’t obscure the fundamental distinction between low-rise and mid-rise. Those guidelines are there for a reason, and if the desirable effects of increased density can be achieved within the context of existing planning, zoning and design policies, then I have yet to see a compelling reason to depart from them. Caricaturing people on that basis as crusading NIMBY zealots unwilling to entertain differing points of view is, as I argued in my response to Brian, inaccurate and unfair.

  • MacKenzieMackzie

    Brian —

    You are bang on. You’re point about accepting people who want to buy a place that they can afford (vs. the $1million homes) is important since the thrust of the OCA seems to be about keeping certain people out of the neighborhood.

    A very clear headed post against a very narrow and naive group of NIMBYs. The fact that Jessica claims there are thousands of supporters for their crusade against 109 Oz shows that they have a bloated sense of purpose.

    I

  • Ian Alexander

    “It may also be worth noting that neither I, nor Benj, nor the OCA, nor the thousands of people who signed the petition, are “anti-growth”. We are happy for Ossington to grow…
    We also just met with various planners and urban designers at City Hall and the City is going to try to implement an Official Plan Amendment that will preserve the distinctive low-rise human scale character of Ossington.”
    Can you not see the contradiction between these two paragraphs? How would Ossington grow if not through intensification such as this? Adding one floor per building?
    Be anti-growth  on Ossington if you want, but please don’t pretend you’re somehow not when opposing projects such as this.

  • MacKenzieMackzie

    The OCA is the one who have caricaturized themselves as crusading NIMBY zealots. Reading their positions on every aspect of the OZ development shows them to be accepting of nothing but their own opinions.

  • Jessica Wilson

    There is no contradiction here, since there is plenty of room to grow on Ossington within the current by-law restrictions.  The average building on the Ossington strip is 2 storeys; there are about equal numbers of 1 and 3 storey buildings, and a few 4 storey buildings.  There are also lots with no storeys—though we would argue that these lands should be preserved for light industrial use, in conformity to the Official Plan desideratum to keep employment lands intact.  We could easily triple the density on Ossington within the current by-law limits.

  • Lacey, you are perfectly welcome to attend meetings and voice your opinion. But it’s quite a leap to argue that, because your opinion isn’t shared by everyone else, the OCA (which I do not speak for, by the way) is necessarily anti-growth or part of an anti-condo crusade, or that you haven’t been able to openly share your side of the story. If your dissenting view wasn’t reflected in the minutes, I’d like to think we’re open to revisiting them accordingly.
    Perhaps I’m reading the views of the community wrong, and perhaps I’m filtering them through my own lens, but I don’t believe anyone is arguing against diversity, inclusion, or innovative and sustainable urban design. We’re all in favour of good design, but that shouldn’t obscure the fundamental distinction between low-rise and mid-rise. Those guidelines are there for a reason, and if the desirable effects of increased density can be achieved within the context of existing planning, zoning and design policies, then I have yet to see a compelling reason to depart from them. Caricaturing people on that basis as crusading NIMBY zealots unwilling to entertain differing points of view is, as I argued in my response to Brian, inaccurate and unfair.

  • rsblythe

    I think you’re reaching a little here, Don. OP wanted fresh tomatoes on Ossington. I commented that the greengrocers and butchers and so on disappeared, as the restaurants — and architectural firms — and other businesses moved in.

  • WE (a family of FIVE) had dinner out on Ossington twice in the last week. Not because I`m a lazy (nor bad) cook…..neither does it really fit in our budget, BUT simply to show support the local businesses. Yes, we do go out for beers with friends as much as we can 🙂 also, as you, visit the galleries and talk to neighbours….. 
    NO ONE i have met through OCA is `no-growth, anti-condo`, it`s actually slightly absurd to think that; and i, as proud member of that very open group (of many open minded people), am a bit shaken by your `tainted`description !!!! My point here, shortly would  be  `mature compromise` is exactly what is needed here – just saying…….p.s. sorry for funny fonts, my son changed my keyboard to a “French mode“

  • rsblythe

    Lacey, please define what you mean by diversity and inclusivity and sustainable.

    How is a car-dependent condo building sustainable (after all 109OZ proposes two floors of underground parking)?

    How does the current proposal encourage diversity? It seems geared to singles. What will they do should they have families? Move out?

    What does inclusivity mean? Does it include low-income earners?

    Sorry to pester you, but I’ve taught enough sociology courses to question the jargon — and written enough financial industry articles also to question the jargon.

  • I don’t speak for the OCA, but this is another misrepresentation. As anyone attending the public meetings would know, there is a very consistent theme, running through the deliberations and emerging from the discussions and expressions of community vision, of concern for affordability and diversity. To suggest that anyone involved has an agenda based on “keeping certain people out” is shallow and insulting.

    It’s easy to disregard the work of an engaged community process and hide behind a pseudonym. It’s even easier to use that anonymity to indulge in name-calling and character assassination. It’s a little harder to engage in mature and respectful discussion informed by a commitment to civility. The tone of your post makes it pretty clear which path you’ve chosen.

  • Ian, where is the contradiction between championing the current character of Ossington on the one hand and welcoming growth and intensification on the other? Can we not embrace the benefits that greater density — including a redevelopment of the 109 site — would bring without also arguing that those benefits can be realized within the context of the current planning, zoning and design framework? Why must it be either / or?

  • I’m Obviously Wrong Here

    And as per usual Lacey, it’s the same 5 people of the 400 or so OCA members posting all over the place, shooting down anything anyone who disagrees with them says. I would think the diversity it encourages is allowing singles to enjoy living in a neighbourhood where they are priced out of homes – diversity doesn’t have to take place within a single building to help increase diversity in a neighbourhood. Sorry, this is in response to the condescending replies to your post by Sol below. A bunch of snobs playing semantics games with regular peeps just trying to state their opinion. It seems to be a waste of time for any of us to even bother speaking up. I attended the first meeting, and follow the OCA group page, and all the nattering of these 5 people actually turned me off of supporting their cause. 

  • FWIW, I’d love to be able to run out and grab a tomato on Oss too.

  • ResidentOZ

    Brian
    In my opinion, I think OCA is a good thing. 
     
    This perception of taint stems from a small group of local residents is so far from the truth… the taint lies from bad publicity from the opposition who have clearly been working their PR and media connections.  The OCA has offered the community a voice…most people that I encountered are looking for more information or a platform to get their concerns across in regards to the recent and upcoming development. In all the years that I’ve lived here, I have NEVER EVER seen this community come together and NOW they are coming together to address the concerns they have for 109 OZ. OCA is NOT Anti Condo….you have that all wrong. I commend what Benj and Jessica has done so far…
    Your comments that “people outside are beginning to view the neighborhood as anti-business and anti-development people” is distorted and is not from anything that OCA has done.  The community has the right to a voice.  Funny how everyone I speak to seems to think that it is great that people are standing up for what they believe in.   People are more upset at the intolerable amount of traffic,  over congestion of the TTC ,  Toronto’s poor infrastructure (as a whole) and bad city planning….which is in dire need of improvement. 
    If you  assume that city planners will do their jobs ….. you are in for a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. Believe me they are not interested in growing this city “organically” as you put it.  The current guidelines are obscure and the OP that they wrong clearly states that Ossington doesn’t qualify for this type of growth.  The planners in my opinion have already made up their mind of 109 OZ …so where is the community input?  It appears to me that they go through the motion for community input with a blind eye and deaf ear to what the community has to say…. And the OCA has pushed and pushed to make our points heard LOUD and CLEAR. 
    Get your facts clear before publishing this nonsense….
    Shame on you

  • J.P.

    Brian, even those who are most opposed to the current 109OZ design AGREE WITH YOU that there absolutely should be bold new development at the site.  I continue to be amazed by voices which seem to recognize zero value in maximizing Ossington’s development opportunities within its current low-rise zoning.  Yes, more new small businesses!  Yes, more new food establishments!  (Ideally, those that can be supported for more than one year: RIP pasta place.)  The 109OZ property is nine storefronts wide.  Such fantastic potential for new diversity!  Right, Stacey?  But, is that what Reserve is promising?  Small stores?  Diversity?
    Do you see any merit in residents looking for those kind of guarantees?  Or demanding any other design specifics that may help save Ossington from the sad fate of King West?  How does it hurt anyone in the neighbourhood for those most concerned to demand “smart growth”?

    Unfortunately, every time Mike Layton said, “Let’s not worry so much about this particular development…” I thought the writing on the wall became increasingly clear.  I sold my house November 1st.  I’ll rent for a while, and hopefully choose to buy again a block or two away… because I still reserve hope that the quirky qualities I love about “Ossington Village” can survive the next six years… but, with this project opening the door to what will certainly be even MORE mid-rise development, I’m doubtful.  Those buildings and the kind of businesses that live on their ground floors were specifically designated to evolve on other avenues.  Avenues that already support streetcars and/or subways.  Not Ossington.  You take the 63 bus like the rest of us, right?  You know what I’m talking about.  No?

    When I bought on Argyle two years ago, I thought there was no chance my front door would be 30 steps from a Jack Astor’s.  We shall see.
    Enjoy following your Twitter feed.  Cheers!

  • ResidentOZ

    Your right there…. Remember Jack’s Grocery!  Shopped there all the time!  I’d love to see a grocery store… however logistically I don’t see how it can work with the current infrustructure and plans that Reserves have provided.  This would need to be a small grocer … not a large scale like a LOBLAWS, METRO or FRESCO that we have nearby.  But a small grocer can’t afford the high rent costs and afford to stay in business.  I’d love to see it happen…but how?

  • ResidentOZ

    I have fresh tomatoes in my garden!

  • J.P.

    Searching your Twitter feed now.  Almost positive my fear of a Jack Astor’s is unintentional plagiarism of one of your own posts!

  • ResidentOZ

    There is a saying “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”! I have to agree with you about “mature compromise”… The recommendations from the Visioning Committee has been a great attempt to voice what we would like to see for this community!  I’m sure and I hope both sides can talk and come to a happy medium…   

  • ResidentOZ

    Likewise for RESERVE!  Unaccepting to Residents Concerns and ideas and least of all the VISIONING COMMITEE’s recommendations!

  • rsblythe

    You may have noticed that the re-commerialization of Ossington meant that a lot of residential tenants in  storefronts south of Foxley were removed for art galleries, restaurants and the like. Arguably, that has decreased diversity … but I’m awaiting a fuller definition of the concept.

  • J.P.

    Can’t find it.  Sorry.  Tried to prove that you don’t love Jack Astor’s and failed.  🙁

  • rsblythe

    Why, may I ask, are you so consternated about the “5 people”? If something’s going to happen, somebody has to step up the plate, don’t you think? Why not contribute and help steer development in our neighbourhood. Disagreement is not prohibited. Discussion is encouraged. Involvement welcomed. Let’s stop hiding behind computers and aliases and get on with building a workable community. Yes?

  • rsblythe

    I’d be careful about that bold statement, Mackenzie. I’m a tenant, and have been down here since 1993. As someone with some experience with financial affairs, I would add that between renting and owning, a condo is the worst choice, since it’s a bit of both — what with regular condo fees. 

  • Facepalming_Brooklynite

    As an outside observer, I just don’t understand this vilification of mid-rise development, which brings precisely the kind of density that makes great cities work, but that is so much lacking in Toronto. Have the opponents never been to places like Paris or Berlin? To Montreal or Chicago? If you go to Manhattan’s East Village, most buildings have five or six stories. How is that not “human-scale”? Low-rise development is suburban and tacky — there is nothing “quirky” about the townhouse development between Halton and Argyle streets, for example. By comparison, the 109 proposal looks reasonable enough

  • Facepalming_Brooklynite

    As
    an outside observer, I just don’t understand this vilification of
    mid-rise development. It brings precisely the kind of density that
    makes great cities work, but that is so much lacking in Toronto. Have
    the opponents never been to places like Paris or Berlin? To Montreal or
    Chicago? If you go to Manhattan’s East Village, most buildings have five
    or six stories. How is that not “human-scale”? Low-rise development
    is suburban and tacky — there is nothing “quirky” about the townhouse
    development on Ossington’s East side, between Halton and Argyle streets. By
    comparison, the 109 proposal looks reasonable enough.

  • J.P.

    Totally agree about that townhouse development.  Would have been sooooo great to have an active organization like the OCA involved in bettering that project long ago.  Concur!

  • I wouldn’t doubt a snarky Jack Astors comment was made at some point.

  • smartygirl

    i keep snickering every time i see the word “taint”

  • “”

  • Rob

    Brian you are welcome to your opinion of course and there’s nothing wrong with using your excellent website to voice it.  But as your site is so influential, I would ask that you avoid mischaracterizing those of us who hold the majority view.  And we do hold the majority view: over 2,000 people have signed a petition to keep Ossington Low Rise.  

    I personally love our restaurants and am pro-intensification.  I am not a NIMBY: I am proud to have CAMH and the detox centre in our neighbourhood and if something socially beneficial was to be built at 109, I would support it.  But concession to Reserve Properties’ demand to rezone the site only benefits Reserve, it does not benefit, society, nor does it benefit our neighbourhood’s residents or businesses.

    Lastly, I strongly agree with your statement “let the city grow organically based on current guidelines”.  Let’s remember that current guidelines are low rise.  

  • Anita_Goncalves

    Firstly, the comments of one prominent Toronto writer privately hardly make our community tainted.  With all due respect the Ossington has for a long time has had a bad reputations from drugs, prostitutions, drunks, karokee shootings…and people still came and setup their business here alongside the ones that existed for years.   It is only within the last few years that it has been put on the “MAP” (it started with the ART Galleries and moved on to  thepopular and the night life for young ‘supposedly mature professionals’ has this strip come alive)  BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good.  Residents are not happy with drunken patrons roaming their yards for a quick pee or barf session.  I live close to one of these bars and I’ve had to tolerate rude patrons disrespecting my property and not to mention the broken glass along the street. Something needed to be done and I’m not sure who was responsible for the passing LCBO license controls…but my hats off to you.  Otherwise for every karokee bar that existed on the strip would have been replaced with a bar…. Is that what you wanted for our community?  Restaurants is a hard business and most shut down within 5 years.. that is the nature of the business.  It happens anywhere.. not just on Ossington. 

    I have to agree with you that , Ossington needs improvements, but we have not fixed the issues that we currently face.  With Ossignton being on the cusp of Ward 18 and Ward 19  (perhaps with representation from two vopposing political parties) has had very little representation.  It is only NOW that Ossington is getting attention because of all they hype from OCA and the attention of Mike Layton.  I’m sure if no one said anything, the community would have rolled over as it has done for the last 30 years that I lived here.

    I agree with you, Toronto needs to grow…the townhouses built north of Argyle were left to our city Planners and in my opinion could have been designed better and should have included a mixed use or retail space on the streetlevel.  This not OCA opinion but my own…. But at the time I did not say anything and what is done is done.  But in all honesty, I’m really tired of people coming into our community and doing what they want and how they want without community consultation.  This is the part that really upsets me.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that many came out to speak for and against the 109 OZ development.  EVERYONE has a right to their opinion…including YOU.  However, your facts are not on the money and before publishing this blog , you should have done some research and gotten your facts straight. You completely mischaracterized what the OCA represents and what it is trying to do…
     
    You mention only the recent business who braved the dangers of the neighbourhood to start up their business.  There has been business who stood the test of time and continue to operate because of the value it adds to our community. Others who have packed up and gone for various reasons…not just because they were going out of business.  Where AMAYA resides there use to be a small variety store rub by an old lady who has passed on.  We use to have a children’s boutique on the corner of Ossington over 20 years ago that was successful because it catered to the residents.  We has Jack Grocery who shut down because the business was not passed on to their children out of choice.  I welcome new business but a variety of businesses ….. I don’t think Ossington needs another BAR and NIGHTCLUB.  I’d love to see more diversity and more options!  How is ONE retail space proving options AND having ONE retail space means logistical issues along Argyle Place.  So let’s say we place a METRO or a CHAINSTORE in this location, can someone explain to me how the our current infrustracture can handle the GARBAGE this would produce, LOGISTIC transportation issues of bring INVENTORY IN/OUT of the unit and PARKING for these customers.  Before you build, PLAN it out…. I DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES AFTER THIS IS BUILT.  
     
    The OCA has been a part of the VISIONING PROCESS and so have other residents.  Like any group, each has their own opinions, some of which we agree and others we disagree… THIS IS PART OF THE PROCESS.  I have to commend this group for taking the time out of their busy lives to be a part of a the SOLUTION.  I think the residents of this community should have a SAY in what happens on this strip…
     
    You mention ‘We spend a lot of time talking to local residents and business owners”.  The OCA and the residents have also taken the time to speak with the neighbours and business owners of this community.  Oddly, most of them agree that they want to see OSSINGTON LOW RISE.  Yes, people want to see development on the strip…but they don’t want to see something that doesn’t FIT the community.  I think the residents are tired and have put up with a lot of BS throughout the years, some of it because NO ONE SPOKE UP or had that mindset that “THEY WILL DO WHAT THEY WANT” and didn’t’ bother to fight.  I think OCA needed to be formed… Ossington was not being properly represented by nearby associations like the Trinity Bellwoods and Beaconsfield…because Ossington was on the border end of their jurisdiction.  If you feel so strongly against OCA and its petition, I challenge you to get 2100 signatures stating you want a MIDRISE condo on OSSINGTON, provide your facts and forecasts. 

    I’m all for RESERVE coming here and building their CONDO, but address the concerns I have and come up with solutions to convince me that the negative impacts outweigh the positive ones.  I would love to see more people in our community to PREVENT schools from closing, to help our local businesses….BUT the CITY also needs to do some work here to and as far as I can tell… NO ONE is TALKING TO EACH OTHER.  Let’s be mature and sit down and TALK and come to some sort of middle ground.

    OCA wants to see our community continues to grow but we as a communtity haves a long way to go before I would call it an outright success.  Things take time and solutions are a work in progress, you win some and you lose some, but when dealing with human beings, not everyone is going to agree.  This is a challenge..BUT I’M  SOOOOOO GLAD THAT EVERYONE IS GETTING INFORMED AND FORMING THEIR OPINIONS…COMMUNICATIONS is an excellent ingredient to any successful relationship..Don’t you think?
    Cheers

  • Chris__Walker

    It’s unfortunate to see such a msinformed article come out at this stage of the process. The 18 members of the Ossington Vsioning Steering Committee have been working hard to ensure one of the last remaining character areas of the City doesn’t get transformed into a generic street. We have been pushing hard for the City to simply follow its own good growth management plan which is not at odds with the stated concerns.

  • JenniferHorvath

    There have been a (tiresome) number of opportunities for the community to be involved in this discussion, between the public meetings on the 109OZ proposal and the Area Study. I have attended many of them, although I have only gone to a single OCA meeting. And what I’ve seen is that most people do not support the idea of mid-rise development in this neighbourhood for a variety of reasons. 
    If a majority of people in the neighbourhood truly support the 109OZ development as it was proposed, then why did they not attend these public meetings in large numbers to say so? Have these people written to the our city counselor and the planner overseeing this project to register their support?  In my experience, the vast majority of people who have attended public meetings and contributed their time and efforts to this issue are against the proposal in its current form. And it’s far from a small, homegenous group of self-important academics, as you suggest. I personally got signatures for the petition against the 109OZ development from every neighbour I approached on Givins and Rebecca St. – a very diverse group of people in terms of their social, economic and cultural status.  Brian, I believe you are a member of the visioning committee put together by Mike Layton – what was your contribution to the work of that group? In my one interaction with you at the public meeting to comment on the proposals put forward by the visioning group, you contributed nothing to the discussion because you left before the meeting was even halfway over. I believe your record as a member of the visioning group would show a similar lack of participation. To reserve your comments for this forum, where they are not a) registered by the city in any meaningful way and b) protected by the anonymity of a computer screen, seems both disingenuous and cowardly. 

  • Thanks, Chris, for a concise and reasonable summary of what many of us seem to be feeling.

  • In my naivete, I’d like to think we can reframe this debate. This essay on my own site was initially conceived as an attempt to do just that, rather than as a response to Brian’s argument (or to a similarly unfortunate column from Marcus Gee).

  • I have to agree with you..the entire process is tiredsome.  But you must admit it’s articles like these that get the blood flowing and everyone back on talking about the topic.  So a postive did come out of this article.,,even is it was inaccurate!  Thanks Brian!

  • daphb

    Attacks on OCA really are besides the point, as well as mean spirited. Challenging a development is hard. It’s time consuming, it’s costly, and it involves a group of volunteers working together for something they care about, which is the healthy growth of our city–in particular this one block strip which comprises such a unique neighbourhood. Surely it’s a dialogue worth having and an example of democracy in action. Challenging OZ has involved many people going door to door in their spare time, talking to their diverse neighbours one on one, going to meetings and learning and voicing opinions.  I don’t believe that any great city lets business define its growth, or waits for people to vote with their pocketbooks. Surely a visioning process, whether it comes via the hard work of Mike Layton and team, or a group like OCA ,or any other group of citizens who wish to engage with the city planners is a vital exercise. To have that level of commitment dismissed as misguided partisanship isn’t fair. There must be a way for people to voice dissent without being attacked. Otherwise we passively wait to see what the city will become, which has been an ongoing problem in Toronto (witness the waterfront) when development has happened too quickly and heedlessly, when financial gain and short-term profit forged the way rather than a true vision for the city.

  • Tania

    The Studys are completed by the Councillor Mike Layton and are meant to be fair and take everyone’s opinion.  Its too bad you feel like your voice was not heard.  I talked to you at one of the meetings and heard you speak and put in a few points and even talk to the press.  You also had a chance to hand in your ideas via the questionnaire, don’t know why you think they were not noted.

  • I really appreciate that you guys were brave enough to take on the Ossington Community-Killing Association. That group (18 steering committee members does not nearly represent our actual community of thousands by the way) has hijacked this great pocket of Toronto with their lies. Unfortunately, many of us who live and operate businesses in the area don’t have the time to properly take them on and worry that they would turn their BS-machine on us if we did.

    Let’s get two things straight. Almost every person who I’ve spoken too (more than 18!) who signed their petition says that they were told they were signing up for a mailing list to receive info about developments at the 109OZ project. Same with businesses who were asked to post their notices. Granted, small business people should read posters before they put them up in their windows but, then again, small business people are busy actually running their businesses and contributing to our community rather than spending the ample free time they have between teaching philosophy classes about how to manipulate debate spreading their self serving propaganda. The way they collected signatures makes any of their own measures of support sketchy.

    This is the second time I’ve posted something online throughout the consultation process. The first time was on the Ossington Community-Killing Association’s original blog. I was annoyed that the group (two whole people at that point! Look how much they’ve grown!!!) had strangled the trees along Argyle with their posters wrapped in packing tape and wondered how a group professing to love our neighbourhood could be so un-eco-friendly to it. That comment was never posted which was their prerogative but also proves they have no interest in any actual debate on the 109OZ matter unlike the good folks here at the Ossington Village blog.

    So why are we wasting our time engaging with people who represent the smallest sliver of our community and aren’t actually interested in listening to their neighbours? And what is motivating this rag tag group to take on a project that seems entirely reasonable to everyone else? Do they have their own political aspirations and see a cause like this as an opportunity to bang some pots and pans and make a name for themselves? Not likely. I think they’re bored and enjoy seeing how they can draw out and twist this debate. The good, neighbourly thing for the rest of us to do would be to ignore them. Not because we don’t believe healthy debate about how Ossington evolves is important for its smart growth but because the Ossington Community Killing Association has already taken more than its fair share of discussion time to rip our neighbourhood apart.

    I’ll end this comment with a message for my awesome neighbours: If you really love this neighbourhood, get out and experience its shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars, parks and community events as much as possible. The saddest thing I heard after the first public meeting on 109OZ was from a business owner who commented that he was amazed by how many people showed up to it but wondered why he’d never seen a single person in that packed gymnasium visit his business?

  • Anita_Goncalves

    If I recall there were two lists: One for the petition and you had the option to subscribe to the mailing list. If you didn’t want to sign the petition,  you had the option to go on the mailings on a separate list.  That was very clear in my opinion.  There was lots of information provided and one did not have to sign the petition and could sign the online petition.   This was pretty clear!

    Strangled the trees? Are you serious?? You should be more concerned with the bikes locked up on the trees and the lack of bike stands. 

    If people are agree on the development why don’t they show up at the meetings?  Reserve can easily get these people out and agree…after all they somehow convince my elderly dad who barely speaks english to “agree” to the Motif.  Spend the time and go door to door and get everyone’s opinion.  I’m not happy with what is going “literally” in my backyard and the only people who care seem to be OCA and the affected residents. 

    You mention for your neighbours to get out and enjoy the hood.  I support some of the local businesses others I do not as they don’t fit my lifestyle.  That doesn’t make me love the neighbourhood any less. 

    Oh and the good neighbourly thing to do is to ignore our neighbours…. seriously that is what has been happening the last 30 years.  I think what is happening is great for the community.  It has people talking, neighbours debating and chatting.  I have never met so many people and REALLY REALLY GREAT PEOPLE.  Some of you agree with what is going on and some of you don’t ….BUT we are all talking about it and their this community has become alive from within.

  • Jessica Wilson

    Oh no, someone has discovered the OCA’s evil plot to destroy our neighborhood!

    Anonymous Accuser says that everyone they’ve talked to who signed up for the petition “were told they
    were signing up for a mailing list to receive info about developments at
    the 109OZ project. Same with businesses who were asked to post their
    notices. […]  The way they collected signatures makes any of their
    own measures of support sketchy.”

    The OCA flyers and petition sheets are available on our website:
    http://smartgrowthforossington.blogspot.ca/2012/05/flyer-archive.html

    I’ll discuss the petition procedure first, but first I want to level a challenge to Anonymous Accuser, or anyone else who claims that these petition signatures were obtained in a “sketchy” way.  Our petition sheets have contact info for the petition signatories.  Here’s my challenge: let’s go hang out in a room and go through those 2100 names, one by one, and contact the signatory, and ask them if they were misled into signing the petition, or if they in fact want to Keep Ossington Low-rise.  This might actually be useful—I could ask them for money to donate to our cause when both the City and the OCA have to fight the proposal at the OMB.

    Here’s how I collected many hundreds of signatures.  I used a folder with a ‘Keep Ossington Lowrise’ flyer taped to the front; I stood in the street for hours on end, asking people ‘Would you like to sign a petition to Keep Ossington Lowrise?’.  Many people would be walking quickly by, trying to Avoid the Petitioner, but upon hearing my question would spin around and enthusiastically say “Yes, I would!”.  I would then tell them that if they wanted to join the Ossington Community Association, then they should check the last box.  We would often have conversations about how detrimental it would be to the character and feel of the Strip for an 82ft hight 9-storefront wide mid-rise condo with a single (likely chain) retail space to be plunked into the centre of the quirky, low-rise, main-street character, destination district Ossington Strip.

    Many other members of the OCA—around twenty—went around door to door throughout the Ossington neighborhood, ranging from Queen to Dundas, from Crawford to Dovercourt.  We covered much, if not most of the area.  The membership “Power Pack” that we handed out is also available on the website:
    http://ossingtoncommunity.wordpress.com/powerpack-2012/

    Note that we had both English and Portuguese versions (thanks, Anita!).  Door-to-door petitioners were given two sheets: one the petition form
    with a box for joining the OCA, and one a separate OCA sign-up sheet for
    people who preferred not to sign the petition for whatever reason.

    Again, we have contact info for nearly everyone who signed the petition, and I challenge anyone who says these signatures were sketchily obtained to back up their accusation by sitting in a room with me and contacting the signatories.

    As for the flyers that we asked businesses to post: we started with a more negative flyer, that had 109OZ in a circle with a line through it.  Some businesses were posting these, but after talking with Michael at the Communist Daughter, we realized that we should endorse a more neutral stance.  Our main aim was to get people talking—and most importantly, to inform people about the upcoming Public meetings on 109OZ.  That’s what our ‘Let’s talk about Ossington’ poster was aimed at doing.  Many local businesses posted this flyer in their window—and why not?  You can read the poster yourself on the website… what’s to misrepresent?  A brilliant young member of our community made this great video documenting 36 businesses that posted this or the previous flyer:

    Our latest flyer, ‘What is Ossington?’ again was directed at informing people of an upcoming public meeting.  Lobbying businesses was too time-consuming, so we just put them on telephone poles, etc.  What on earth is wrong with any of this?

  • Anita_Goncalves

    Posting this on behalf of Jessica Wilson from OCA (who oddly is unable to post her comments):

    First, I offer the following challenge to Anonymous Accuser. We have the contact information for almost everyone who signed the petition. I am happy to sit in a room with Anonymous Accuser and contact our signatories and confirm that they did in fact mean to sign a petition to Keep Ossington Lowrise. This might be useful anyway, for fundraising purposes!

    Second, our flyers, the petition forms, and the membership Powerpack (in both English and Portuguese—thanks, Anita!) are available on the OCA website. It’s easy to confirm that there were no secretly subversive messages in the flyers that many Ossington businesses put in their windows—after the first couple of blatantly negative flyers (109OZ with a circle and bar through it), we decided to focus on more neutral efforts just to inform people that there had been a mid-rise condo application and to let them know when the Public meetings on the proposal would be; these are the ‘Let’s talk about Ossington’ and the ‘What is Ossington?’ flyers, which we tried to make neutral for purposes of encouraging EVERYONE to come to the public meetings—not just opponents.

  • DonGivens

    Actually, rsblythe, not a reach at all. Someone asked for tomatoes, and of all the possible responses, such as “there are plenty of places to get a tomato on Dundas, all within walking distance” your immediate reaction was to complain about change. That’s my point, and your reply didn’t even refute it. Then, in your other posts, you complained AGAIN about the changing neighborhood. But right, you are all for change. You just can’t give any examples of any change you want or like, following the standard of your organization.

    I realize you probably thought I wouldn’t reply, it’s just, like a lot of members of the community who are fine with growth in the neighborhood, I have lots of other things to do besides trolling message boards and commenting. How many comments do you alone have here? 6? 7?

  • rsblythe

    Don,
    I welcome your reply.

    Web interactions can often mislead. I didn’t complain about change. I observed it. There is a difference.

    But since you’ve asked, I’ve been around here for a fair bit of time — 20 years. I’ve seen lots of changes, some good, some bad. Except for the peixaria, I don’t think there are any tomatoes left on Ossington — and I’m not sure they have any either. I did see peppers and oranges today, however. I miss the tomatoes. I miss the butcher shop turned into a restaurant. I miss the cheap haircutting places too. I miss the furniture store, forced to move so the City could put in a parking lot on Dundas, next to the CIBC.

    There are changes I like, for example, the wonderful infill commercial building that now houses BMO on Dundas; it was a derelict lot before that. I like the cleanup of the Levack Block, but wish they had restored the stained glassed windows. I like the rebuild at 131 Ossington, formerly a warehouse and a graffiti target that once featured in an insurance industry ad: “meet the next owners of your car,” with a couple of skulking hipsters nearby.

    Obviously good/bad change is in the eye of the beholder. In my posts, I have made observations, sometimes asked for clarifications or attempted to provide corrections, but made little in the way of argument for or against change, except this one: new development should respect the existing, low-rise, character of the neighbourhood. The proposed development is out of scale with the neighbourhood.

    Is it really too much to ask a developer to respect the desires of the community, rather than demanding a bylaw change to impose his will?

    And, yes, it would be nice to see tomatoes back on Ossington again. 😉

    Respectfully,

    Scot.

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