High Park Residents' Association (HPRA)


Roncesvalles Avenue has attracted considerable change over the past five years.

As residents, we participated in debate and design efforts prior to these changes, lived through myriad challenges during a haphazard implementation, and based on continuing feedback, are still attempting to make peace with elements or compromises of the result.

In any case, our newly designated 'slow street' has retained its essential character, as an eclectic assortment of predominantly commercial and multi-family uses on its east side, with varied single-family and multi-family residences on its west side.

The City of Toronto is proposing to permit small-scale retail, service, and office uses on the west side of Roncesvalles between Marmaduke and Marion, a stretch the City refers to as 'currently designated as Neighbourhoods'.

At its best, this proposal offers area residents a welcome stake in the ground - permitting quiet use in keeping with existing built forms and structures, and forestalling the community's need to fight a series of development applications.

It should be noted, however, that the City refers to the area north of Bloor and west of Keele 'currently designated as Neighbourhoods'.

As recently as January of this year, over 800 area residents temporarily convinced City Councillors from approving a 350+ unit, twelve storey building as a 'neighbour' to single-family residences there - an unfortunate example as to how the City's Planning methodologies often lead to contentious battles at the Ontario Municipal Board, rather than aspiring to the cost-saving and development-guideline-surety borne of co-operation between the City and local communities (i.e. the Bloor Dundas Avenue Study).

Will the newly-admirable, New York Times-lauded Roncesvalles Avenue we know and love today exist in ten years?

Or will the City facilitate a future wind tunnel of six storey (or taller) buildings along the west side of Roncesvalles?

We strongly encourage all area residents to share your views with Dan Nicholson by email dnichol2@toronto.ca (please cc: executive@highparkra.org such that we can track your input), or by phone at 416-395-7110.

BACKGROUND / TIMELINE

Following years of lackadaisical City enforcement of its own land use bylaws, a highly contentious battle amongst residents to accommodate bylaw changes necessary to permit the operation of a music school, and the realization that mid-rise development guidelines imperiled the future of Roncesvalles Avenue as local residents have known it over the past 100 years, the HPRA’s Executive made a request in 2010 of Councillor Gord Perks, that the City facilitate a discussion whereby land use with respect to single family residences on the west side of Roncesvalles would be treated with consistency in the future.

In March 2012, Councillor Gord Perks announced the Roncesvalles West Land Study.

In doing so, Councillor Perks noted that one of the reasons he was doing so, was to address “the number of developers who approach my office, looking to develop properties on the west side of Roncesvalles”.

When asked by area resident association heads about what developers were asking for, no feedback was forthcoming, which led many to believe that the Councillor hadn’t been approached at all, but instead, sought to press the community to adopt creeping commercial uses (i.e. the City Meeting Notice’s “small-scale retail”) as the thin edge of a wedge to encourage development on the west side of Roncesvalles between Marmaduke and Marion.

On April 19th, 2012, Councillor Gord Perks delivered a Roncesvalles West Study presentation, detailing his future work based on residents choosing one of three futures:

1. Keep the status quo
2. Change/Update the existing bylaw
3. Heritage Designation

Throughout the meeting, attendees voiced their preferences for the status quo, belittled City attempts to justify “past exceptions being provided to owners” as the reason why current land use provisions required changing (e.g. “you granted these exceptions, and now you want us to believe that what you’re seeking is protection from yourself?”),and offered tangible reasons as to why permitting ‘small-scale retail’ (as mentioned in the City’s Notice for the meeting) would lead to unacceptable traffic congestion and parking concerns.

Moreover, at least three residents cited specific instances of the current Councillor’s after-the-fact accommodation of exceptions.

The City’s Roncesvalles West Study minutes for this meeting attempt to characterize resident sentiment as “some members of the public expressed support for no changes to the Zoning at all”, when in fact, ‘keeping the status quo’ represented an overwhelming majority of resident input, both at the meeting, and since.

It would have been more accurate to state that “some members of the public suggested modernizing the list of professional services as being the only change worth discussing”.

It is also interesting to note the positions of the Roncesvalles BIA, from statements made in their 2003 [Roncesvalles] Streetscape Strategy document, to recent input.

By way of illustrating the City’s method of operating, the reader is advised to note that north of Bloor along Oakmount, a City-designated dividing line exists between lands deemed (single-family residential) “Neighbourhood” and “Apartment Neighbourhood”.

What’s happening there, is a short-sighted, spineless City represented by development-friendly Councillors inviting proposals to build at heights four times the former limit, densities five times the former limit, with the added insult of residents and their families being attacked by glass walls (‘fritted’ or otherwise) while on their neighbouring single-family properties.

This is being done under the guise of “necessary intensification”, which exposes the City’s lie in claiming that the “Neighbourhood” designation represents a significant brake on ‘undesirable development’ of adjacent lands.

The above said, it is reasonable to conclude that any “Change/Update” in the existing land use for the west side of Roncesvalles more likely represents a further opportunity for the City to compromise the quiet and safe enjoyment of those who own or reside in single-family residences on, or close to, the west side of Roncesvalles.

These points weren’t lost on those attending a Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents Association (RMRA)-facilitated meeting on May 29th, where area residents living on both sides of Roncesvalles were unanimously in favour of ‘keeping the status quo’ - excepting that part of the status quo where the local Councillor and the City’s Legal department continue to ignore or accommodate land use exceptions against existing bylaws, and the wishes of the community’s residential landowners.


High Park Residents' Association (HPRA)