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Thread: Shabby Public Realm

  1. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by pman View Post
    So here's a question for the people who care about this issue: What is to be done? Many of us seem to agree on the problem, but complaining on UT posts has precisely zero impact on the real world. What can we actually do to generate modest, achievable improvement?
    It's somewhat of an uphill battle. To effectuate change the public has to demand it so that civic leaders and private developers respond. Otherwise, it's simply not in their interest.

    In others words I'm not sure just who is going to advocate for these changes: 1) the vast general public simply doesn't care or take pride in these things the way they do in other cities and 2) in the vacuum of this public apathy civic spending has been politicized and co-opted by influential, vocal interest groups that simply do not care about ugly streetscapes, and who through propaganda make it a matter of questionable 'ethics/priorities' if you do to the point where it involves money (volunteer all you want but don't expect funding while there is a homeless person on the street).

    ... and is this really all that different from other civic portfolios? Transit and infrastructure have also been ignored for decades because nobody wanted to spend the money or take responsibility for spending it, and consequently nothing much was done for many years. Once again, the public didn't care and there were more politically expedient ways to direct funds. Now all of a sudden (so to speak) we seem to care a great deal about mass transit, as we all know.

    At the end of the day who's to say what it will take to change the public attitude towards the public realm? In fact, as has already been demonstrated by Grimace and others, we are starting to see some change. Perhaps as the demographics of downtown change as driven by mass development and the condo boom we are seeing a change in expectations that will only continue to generate momentum. More and more people want to live downtown but want to live in relatively clean, welcoming and uplifting environments. At some point the expectations and influence of this growing demographic will begin to challenge other political forces.


  2. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonParis View Post
    Dont' forget the de-poled Junction which looks great!
    I like the term--de-poling Well, we have a long list of de-poled street, 10 streets! Well, how about hundreds and hundreds of less important residential streets? I think the only solution is to ask residents to agree on their street de-poling and ask city to enter in some sort of agreement with the local utility company. I found one such agreement for Rancho Palos (I assume a suburb of LA) in California:

    TO: Honorable Mayor and Members of the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council PETITION OF INTEREST OF PROPERTY OWNERS TO UNDERGROUND UTILITIES WITHIN THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES. We, the undersigned, being owners of property within the area of a proposed assessment district to be established under the MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1913, Division 12 (Sections 10000, et seq.) of the Streets and Highways Code of the State of California (the "Act"), do hereby petition the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (the "City") to forthwith commence and carry through to completion under the provisions of said Act, all proceedings for the formation of an ASSESSMENT DISTRICT as hereinafter described and for the acquisition of the hereinafter mentioned improvements within the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, County of Los Angeles, State of California.
    The area within the City, which we hereby request the City Council to form as an ASSESSMENT DISTRICT, as hereinabove mentioned, is shown on a map attached hereto as Exhibit A entitled "MAP OF PROPOSED UNDERGROUNDING ASSESSMENT DISTRICT FOR THE _________________ NEIGHBORHOOD"
    The improvements, which we hereby request to be acquired for the benefit of the property within the above-mentioned proposed assessment district, are the conversion of existing overhead electrical and communications facilities to underground locations and the removal of poles.

    We understand:
    A. That the cost of the improvements will be assessed to the land, which benefits from the improvements including our land;
    B. That a report will be prepared on the project, including plans and specifications, a detailed cost estimate, and a division of the costs among the benefited parcels of land, and that a public hearing will be conducted on the report.
    C. That the cost of engineering, legal, and other incidental expenses will be included in the project cost;
    D. The estimated cost of the improvements to be financed from Assessment District for each parcel is $ 40,000 - $ 60,000.
    E. That each property owner may pay his assessment either in cash without interest or in installments with interest over a period of 15 to 20 years.


    I would gladly to add this expense to my property tax. It can be even cheaper for high-density areas of Old Toronto. I would assume that city will contribute a small fraction related to low income dwellers unable to pay and maybe secure low interest loans.

  3. Default

    If "the vast general public simply doesn't care or take pride in these things" then the money shouldn't be spent. This is a democracy, and in the long run the spending of the City should generally reflect the preferences of the majority. I don't accept your premise, but if your premise is right then diverting funds to these projects would be undemocratic.

    No one here suggested you shouldn't fix a pothole if there's a single homeless person left. You're flailing at strawmen. But as per above, if you believe it's appropriate to spend more money on these things then get involved in your local associations, write your counsellor, donate if you have the money. Writing on internet forums that Torontonians are collectively a bunch of slovenly penny pinchers, or worse, sensible shoe'd pinkos who foolishly think that government institutions can do a lick of good for the poor, is a bad way to start the conversation.

    Though I will credit all of you for not taking the route of another poster when this subject came up on another thread and blame it on the fact that too many people in Toronto are not from western Europe.

  4. #49

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    I don't know if I'm imagineing this, but Hydro does seem to be gradually undergrounding in a few places, eg along Queen, Gerrard, Carlaw and Dundas in the east end. Has anyone else noticed this? Of course in true TH style they simply saw the top half off of wooden poles off when they're done, rather than install attractive new ones, but at least it clears some of the clutter.

  5. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
    If "the vast general public simply doesn't care or take pride in these things" then the money shouldn't be spent. This is a democracy, and in the long run the spending of the City should generally reflect the preferences of the majority.
    Fair enough, but your position doesn't exactly negate my premise with regards to 'slovenliness', it corroborates it!

    Also, I don't know that I would confuse 'apathy' with democratic will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
    No one here suggested you shouldn't fix a pothole if there's a single homeless person left. You're flailing at strawmen.
    I've made a sincere attempt to explain the connection, even if I had to resort to a bit of hyperbole to clarify my point. Others here actually agree with me, so I think it's a bit of a stretch to accuse me of building straw men.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
    Torontonians are collectively a bunch of slovenly penny pinchers, or worse, sensible shoe'd pinkos who foolishly think that government institutions can do a lick of good for the poor, is a bad way to start the conversation.
    Why? We could discuss all kinds of great things about Toronto and its people but here we're talking specifically about the public realm. The sad state of it is frustrating and depressing to many of us at UT who care about these things, so we can be excused a little passion.

    ... and again, you persist in misrepresenting my position with regard to social spending which leads me to believe you're either being a little stubbornly disingenuous in your refusal to understand my position, or you've got your own personal agenda. Bottom line: don't accuse others of building straw men when you're sitting there on a pile of hay yourself.
    Last edited by Tewder; 2012-Feb-11 at 11:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
    If "the vast general public simply doesn't care or take pride in these things" then the money shouldn't be spent. This is a democracy, and in the long run the spending of the City should generally reflect the preferences of the majority.
    Hold on a second. Just because the majority of people want something a certain way doesn't mean that this is the best outcome for society. A majority of Canadians want to go back to having capital punishment; a majority of Americans disapprove of gay marriage. Does this mean that we should bring back the gallows and take away the rights of gay people to marry?

    A majority of people don't care about public space, but that doesn't mean that these same people understand the social impacts of an improved public realm, the economic benefits of an improved public realm, or how to accurately assess whether the benefits of an improved public realm are worth the costs. People don't think about these things, and that's why we should not put a lot of stock into what people "think".

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    a couple of years ago i complained to my local councillor about the completely faded neighbourhood watch signs in our area (the standard state of them city wide), after some thefts from peoples porches. she forwarded it to the works dept who promptly came and replaced all the signs. Which makes me think it's piss-poor management that's part of the problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nstuch View Post
    a couple of years ago i complained to my local councillor about the completely faded neighbourhood watch signs in our area (the standard state of them city wide), after some thefts from peoples porches. she forwarded it to the works dept who promptly came and replaced all the signs. Which makes me think it's piss-poor management that's part of the problem.
    When I contacted Krystin Wong-Tam's office about the seriously degraded pavement on Glen north of the bridge they did nothing. That stretch of road has had so many shoddily-repaired utility cuts that cyclists are forced into the middle. In fact, cars tend to straddle the middle as well because it's so bumpy, which makes it difficult for everybody on a 2-lane street. No argument the City has piss-poor management, but at least in Toronto-Centre we also have also piss-poor representation.

    And while I rant, check out the hydro poles on the north side of Scollard west of Bay, which for some reason were installed in the middle of the sidewalk instead of on the edge. Simply bizarre.

  9. #54

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    The cheerleaders around here accuse us of just whining so maybe we should actually be posting pics of ugly and dispiriting public spaces as sort of our own 'puglies'. Let the shaming begin!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tewder View Post
    The cheerleaders around here accuse us of just whining so maybe we should actually be posting pics of ugly and dispiriting public spaces as sort of our own 'puglies'. Let the shaming begin!
    That's a great idea.

  11. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by pman View Post
    When I contacted Krystin Wong-Tam's office about the seriously degraded pavement on Glen north of the bridge they did nothing.
    City councillors rarely go out and pave streets. Did you try calling 311?

  12. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tewder View Post
    The cheerleaders around here accuse us of just whining so maybe we should actually be posting pics of ugly and dispiriting public spaces as sort of our own 'puglies'. Let the shaming begin!
    i am up for the challenge. the problem is, it's not one specific shockingly bad example that typifies Toronto but rather the general neglect of practically everything; streelight poles (both the rusty metal and the staple encrusted wood), picnic benches in front of city hall, ubiquitous asphalt patches, bent and rusted road signs, cheap materials used wherever possible, etc etc

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    Quote Originally Posted by gristle View Post
    City councillors rarely go out and pave streets. Did you try calling 311?
    Nice use of sarcasm, Gristle. Apparently the public works department rarely goes out and paves streets either. Yes I did call 311 as well and nothing happened. But I don't think it's unreasonable for municipal councillors to concern themselves with getting the City to do its job, which used to include keeping the public realm in decent repair.

  14. #59

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    Suggestion to Toronto; If you want to pretend to be "green" then why not start with the streetlights? These ancient, 1950's apparatus's shine half their light up into the sky (and into driver's faces at night, which is not good when it rains) thanks to outdated shield designs. We need to adopt the policies of Tucson, AZ where all lights are shielded, so they throw the light only groundward where it belongs. They do it in Tucson because they have a huge astronomical observatory system nearby and "light pollution" isn't good for it, but more to the green point, it would save energy. If you go to Pearson Airport, you will see all the lighting is shielded (but for other reasons).

  15. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichA View Post
    Suggestion to Toronto; If you want to pretend to be "green" then why not start with the streetlights? These ancient, 1950's apparatus's shine half their light up into the sky (and into driver's faces at night, which is not good when it rains) thanks to outdated shield designs. We need to adopt the policies of Tucson, AZ where all lights are shielded, so they throw the light only groundward where it belongs. They do it in Tucson because they have a huge astronomical observatory system nearby and "light pollution" isn't good for it, but more to the green point, it would save energy. If you go to Pearson Airport, you will see all the lighting is shielded (but for other reasons).
    You make it sound like we have flying cars.

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