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Toronto planning

fedplanner

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It's almost become a game. A developer wants to build a 50-storey building, so they propose a 55-storey tower. The planners review the application and say the building is too tall and too dense when evaluated against current zoning rules (which were written in the 70s and don't reflect the goals of Toronto's Official Plan). The developer than agrees to a "compromise" to slash 5 floors off the building to pacify the planners and any neighborhood NIMBYs. They then pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and the developer builds what they originally wanted.

Why does this madness pass for planning in Toronto?
 

RC8

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Because the city's hands are tied against the OMB.

It was done enough times to set a precedent once upon a time, and now it's very difficult to stop it from happening.
 

fedplanner

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Because the city's hands are tied against the OMB.

It was done enough times to set a precedent once upon a time, and now it's very difficult to stop it from happening.

Toronto's zoning is outdated and does not reflect the policies of Toronto's Official Plan or the Places to Grow Act. That's why so many developers win on appeal to the OMB.

BTW, this made me smile today.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/201...t_products_store_beats_city_zoning_bylaw.html

A vindicated Steve Bannister, who owns Aren't We Naughty, has won a battle against the city in Superior Court which ruled a zoning bylaw used in an attempt to close him down is too vague.

If there was no OMB, the appeals would just shift to the provincial courts.
 

RC8

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Toronto's zoning is outdated and does not reflect the policies of Toronto's Official Plan or the Places to Grow Act. That's why so many developers win on appeal to the OMB.

My impression is that you are partially correct, but precedent setting and the fact the OMB is in bed with developers also has a lot to do with it.

P.S. Good on Bannister. Well deserved victory against what was clearly a poorly written bylaw.
 
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fedplanner

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My impression is that you are partially correct, but precedent setting and the fact the OMB is in bed with developers also has a lot to do with it.

You have a point about precedent setting. If Mirvish+Gehry is approved, I can easily see developments that provide far less public benefits pointing to Mirvish to justify their densities.

The OMB being in bed with developers sounds intuitively true, there have never been any evidence that the OMB has done anything illegal or unethical in their appeal decisions. Many of the critics of the OMB point to the fact that they are an unelected body. The good is they are not soliciting political donations and such. The OMB itself is modeled after the judicial system and existing laws on the books are very pro development and density, which is what's reflected in the rulings from the OMB.

I can't recall any OMB appeals on the basis of urban design or parking standards. The occasional land-use questions come up and the OMB has issued favorable decisions to use urbannites (see big box store on the waterfront). The question is nearly always on height and density, and the OMB constantly will rule in favor of the developers on these issues. The zoning in Toronto is antiquated and is in desperate need of being updated and conforming to Toronto's Official Plan.


From Urban Toronto's interview with Kyle Rae

So things have improved, clearly.

I think part of the problem for Toronto is that the planning regime is so antiquated and the standards are even more so, and what I mean by that is the old zoning bylaw in the city of Toronto is from 1986, and it was based on the 1976 Official Plan. So, in the old City of Toronto the zoning by-law in force is 40 years out of date. Think of it: the zoning by-law reflects a Toronto before the wave of commercial investment flowed from Montreal due to the Parti Quebecois election.

It's not a conspiracy, Toronto planning just can't get it's sh*t together, and a provincial body exists to call them on it.
 

RC8

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I don't disagree with you on the zoning being a disaster. In fact, if we zoned some neighbourhoods appropriately then we would get lots of desirable mid-rise buildings under construction in a heart-beat. Isn't that what everyone wants?

The city clearly feels that having to go through a re-zoning for each proposal puts it in the driver's seat to raise much needed funds. I think it's a very silly way to run a city, and will lead to disjointed neighbourhoods.

However, my 'OMB are in bed with developers' line isn't something I just came up with. I was told that this was the case by 2 high-ranked members of the Ontario Public Service. Since they both directly worked with the OMB, I tend to trust their judgement.
 

Riverdale Rink Rat

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I don't disagree with you on the zoning being a disaster. In fact, if we zoned some neighbourhoods appropriately then we would get lots of desirable mid-rise buildings under construction in a heart-beat. Isn't that what everyone wants?

The city clearly feels that having to go through a re-zoning for each proposal puts it in the driver's seat to raise much needed funds. I think it's a very silly way to run a city, and will lead to disjointed neighbourhoods.

However, my 'OMB are in bed with developers' line isn't something I just came up with. I was told that this was the case by 2 high-ranked members of the Ontario Public Service. Since they both directly worked with the OMB, I tend to trust their judgement.

OK, then WHY is the OMB (in their judgement) in bed with developers? Political leanings of board members? Went to UCC together? I think that so many people want to tell developers what to do with their property that the OMB became developers' de facto method for getting to develop. The critical panels and WT-style overarching vision might be a better idea, but remember that the OMB is reacting to 'neighbourhood activists would prefer a park' syndrome.

If the city plan catches up to the city's vision, and developers can make a solid profit within that plan, the OMB will not be contentious nor necessary too often.
 

RC8

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WT-style overarching vision is a much better idea, and is how a lot of cities successfully develop today, while most of Toronto stagnates horribly (with the exception of its waterfront) on the public realm and planning agenda.

Their judgement is that many members of the OMB, while fully qualified, have worked with developers at some stage in their careers and continue to socialise and frequent the same circles as the province's leading developers. They are mostly out of touch with municipal councillors, on the other hand. They'll go to great lengths to interpret the law in some way that allows developers to get their way, but won't try and do so for the city.

Personally I think that precedent setting shouldn't ever be used to determine whether something should be built somewhere. It's silly and simplified way to overlook the common good for the sake of market fairness.

In any case, there's no doubt that if planners at the City of Toronto got their act together this would be a non-issue for the most part.
 

fedplanner

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I saw this the other day.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/201...ivate_parking_spot_in_toronto_is_illegal.html

Renting out a private parking spot in Toronto is illegal
For $80 a month, you can rent a west-end driveway on College St. Or there’s an off-lane spot in the Annex for $100. A Yorkville driveway goes for $12 per day.
Kijiji, Craigslist and parkatmyhouse.com list dozens of available parking spots for rent in Toronto. The problem, however, is that renting out private parking is technically illegal in this city and could result in a $25,000 fine, although that’s unlikely.

Parking rental websites are among new services created by computer- and smartphone-savvy developers that enter legal grey areas in Toronto. And some people say it’s time the city updated those bylaws.
 

fedplanner

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Toronto’s condo towers: are they getting too tall?
Toronto developers are aiming ever higher with their “supertall†condos. Experts weigh in on how high is too high.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/23/torontos_condo_towers_are_they_getting_too_tall.html

Interesting comments about Massey Tower:

One proposed condominium project is The Massey Tower, slated on the tiny site of the 108-year-old Bank of Commerce building at 197 Yonge St., across from the Eaton centre. Long derelict, this Beaux-Arts building might find new life as a spectacular lobby to a 60-storey tower atop the Queen St. subway station. It’s already nearly sold out.

The building hit at least a temporary road block with city planners, who say it represents “overdevelopment†for the area. But last week, Gary Switzer, CEO of MOD Developments, cleared a major zoning hurdle with Toronto city council and is now preparing for a statutory public meeting on the Massey Tower project in May.

Switzer maintains that what matters is form and function, not height. “Is the building well-designed? Does it meet the street in the right way? If it does those things, does it really matter if it’s 40 storeys, or 50 storeys, or 60 storeys?â
 

W. K. Lis

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Believe or not, there used to be Olympic medals for... Town Planning.

From link.

America's First Medal at the Nazi Olympics Was For...Town Planning
Urban planning was once considered an Olympic sport, and Brooklyn's Marine Park won a medal.

The design to redevelop Marine Park, in Brooklyn, had been beautifully sketched in oil onto a large rectangular canvas. The map showed a thin canal, almost perpendicular to the South Brooklyn shoreline, which ran into a circular pool. It lay ready for inspection in a spacious exhibition hall, just outside the monumental Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

The drawings, signed in a calligraphic style on the bottom righthand corner by their creator Charles Downing Lay, were the American entry into the 1936 Summer Olympics—also known as the Nazi Olympics—for a category that seems improbable today: Town Planning.

Yes, from 1928 until 1948, town planning was an actual Olympic sport.

Town planning fell under an "architectural design" category at the Olympic art competition. The field that year was dominated by German entries. Yet the first U.S. medal of the Olympics went to Lay, a New York architect, for his ambitious blueprint to modernize Marine Park in Brooklyn.

Lay received a silver medal, finishing between two German designers who competed under the Nazi crest. His design for Marine Park intended to make it larger than Central and Prospect Park combined, and the "greatest municipal recreation and sports center in the world," said the Brooklyn Eagle. At a projected cost of somewhere between $30 million to $50 million dollars, the elaborate plans included a golf course, swimming pools, a 125,000-seat stadium, tennis courts and mooring space for yachts.

The victorious Lay said he was very glad to win a silver medal at the Olympics. Clearly the success didn’t go to his head. “But you understand. I did not win the Olympic medal in a contest,” Lay told the Associated Press. “It was much more of an exhibition.”

Eighty years later, the 1936 event is better known for others things, like the athletic brilliance of Jesse Owens and the ignominious presence of Hitler and high-ranking Nazis in the stands.

Along with town planning, the lineup of events also included painting, sculpture, literature and music. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, believed art and architecture were a vital component for his vision of the Olympics. The first four decades of the modern Olympic Games saw runners and swimmers competing alongside authors and urban planners.

Aside from Lay, the U.S. team was not well represented for art at the Berlin Games. German artists won the majority of other medals in the art competition. The German March brothers won the gold medal for the Reich Stadium, where the Games were held. An Austrian, Theodore Naussbaum, came in third for his town plan of Cologne.

Lay had actually finished his designs for Marine Park four years earlier, in 1932, and they were exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum a year after that. Lay disliked architectural competitions. They were “too hard to do.” But the requirements for entry into the Olympic "architectural design" competition were easy, and so he went ahead and submitted his plans for consideration.

Marine Park was a rugged, open parkland that backed onto the Rockaway inlet in South Brooklyn. Lay would transform the 1,500-acre spot into a recreational space geared towards sports and healthy living, with a design that "fused the formal splendor of the Renaissance with a progressive social agenda," writes Thomas Campanella.

Lay's proposal would reshape the shoreline and in doing so remove Plum Beach, Gerrison Inlet and Deadhorse Bay.

But despite the fact that his visionary drawings earned him an Olympic medal, by 1936, New York City officials had all but shelved Lay's plans.

Work on the park took years to progress and had many setbacks. Robert Moses, as head of the Parks Department, did not support Lay's grand plans. He thought they were too expensive, and so he hired two architects who favored a more modest redesign. Moses was well-known for his preference of roads over parks.

The stadium was quickly scrapped, as were most aspects of Lay's revolutionary blueprint. Eventually a golf course was built, and today there are facilities for kayaking, something akin to the original idea.


Lay was already a prominent figure when he designed the park and founded Landscape Architect, an academic journal. Hestudied architecture at Columbia University and Harvard and spent most of his professional career in New York City, where he ran a landscape architecture practice.

Lay lived in Germany in 1934 after the Oberlaender Trust, a fund run by a German-American from Pennsylvania, paid for him to study landscape architectural practices there. He had moved back to the U.S. at the time of the Games, but was likely influenced by his time abroad.

Lay's design for Marine Park was in keeping with German park design during the Weimar and Nazi periods, according to the Hidden Waters blog. This may have been a reason why the German judges awarded Lay, in a competition dominated by Germans, the silver medal.​
 

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