A great article in the Toronto Star about a special tree in Bloor West Village can be found here.
Last week, the Toronto Foundation and Environics released the Toronto Social Capital Study, a benchmarking report assessing the city’s social capital levels. The study employs social capital concepts (such as social trust and civic connections) to provide a useful lens on the quality of personal and community life in Toronto. The study is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in understanding how social capital varies across the population in terms of socio-demographic and geographical strata.
As outlined in the study “Social capital” is the term used to describe the vibrancy of social networks and the extent to which there is trust and reciprocity within a community and among individuals. It is the essential “lubricant” that makes it possible for societies to function, and for people to get along peacefully even when they have little in common. There is ample empirical evidence showing that high levels of such reciprocity, trust and connection are not simply “feel good” notions, but key ingredients to making communities productive, healthy and safe. “
The Social Capital Study surveyed just over 3,200 residents and measured responses on four dimensions:
- Social Trust, the sense of trust Torontonians have in one another and city institutions;
- Social Networks, the strength of residents’ informal and formal relationships;
- Civic Connection, the extent to which people are civically engaged; and
- Neighbourhood Support, how citizens see their neighbourhoods as supporting the type of life and environment they want for themselves.
The study results provide insight into social capital as experienced by residents across 26 neighbourhood clusters.
How is Toronto doing on social capital?
We might be richer than we think. Overall, the social capital level of people and communities in Toronto appears positive but this is not uniform: “Toronto, as a whole, shows relatively high levels of social capital in terms of social trust, social networks, civic connection and neighbourhood support.” The study shows that the majority of people surveyed trust other people (including those different from themselves), have a sense of belonging to their community, have family and friends they can rely on, give back to the community, and are interested in politics. An article by the Toronto Star’s social justice reporter, Laurie Monsebraaten, provides a good overview of the study and its main findings.
What are the social capital levels in our neighbourhood?
The study mapped the distribution of social capital levels across the city in 26 neighbourhood areas. Bloor West Village and several neighbourhoods east of the Humber River were grouped into one clustered neighbourhood area referred to as High Park-West-Junction-Parkdale. The High Park-West-Junction-Parkdale neighbourhood area showed social capital levels well above the city-wide average for the social capital dimensions of Civic Connection and Social Trust. This area was near the average on social capital levels for Social Networks and Neighbourhood Support.
We’re guessing that most residents would agree with Toronto Life’s ranking of Bloor West Village as the best neighbourhood in the city! It’s well-deserved and we are fortunate to have a number of attributes that make it so attractive and livable including:
• A vibrant main street shopping area
• Mature, stable residential streets
• Top public schools
• Walkability to all the essentials of daily life
• Excellent access to public transit, and
• An abundance of parks and other public spaces
But being fortunate doesn’t mean being entitled. These advantages cannot be taken for granted and despite the Toronto Life score, they can be threatened by:
• Inappropriate out-of-scale urban intensification
• Inadequate planning tools to guide renewal and growth
• Lack of City resources to properly maintain our parks and tree canopy, and
• Market forces and property taxes that penalize main street retailers
The good news is that we have a lot of engaged residents who can take some credit for how great our village is today! You are showing up at public meetings by the hundreds to express your concerns about inappropriate development proposals. You are challenging monster home proposals all the way to TLAB, Toronto’s appeal tribunal, and sending a message that this type of renewal is not encouraged in Bloor West Village. You are supporting the work of the BWVRA as a member and a donor when called upon. You are supporting other vital organizations such as Green 13 to ensure our tree canopy and public open spaces are protected and enhanced. And, you are shopping locally to ensure our retail main street prospers and survives as the anchor of our village.
As one of the strongest collective voices in our area, let’s keep it up! The BWVRA is always looking for energetic, committed residents to contribute their ideas and talents as members of our Board.
Do you have some time to become involved? We’d love to hear from you about your interests and how you would like to help! Please click here to learn more.
An important meeting will be taking place at which the City’s moves to limit the proposed 7-towers in the area north of nearby High Park will be outlined. Here are the details:
Thursday, November 8th, 7-9pm
Grenadier Retirement Residence (2100 Bloor Street West)
Shahrzad Davoudi, an urban designer who participated in the Character Study Working Group will outline the City’s High Park Apartment Neighbourhood Area Urban Design Guidelines and provide an update on the developers’ attempts to challenge those guidelines at the OMB.
There will be a discussion on what would be allowed under those limits, and what the community would want included in counter-proposals from the High Park Community Alliance based on the priorities and needs of local residents. Outgoing Councillor Sarah Doucette, who has been instrumental in fighting for these limits, will also attend. The meeting will be used to honour Sarah for her contributions. The newly-elected Ward 14 Councillor, Gord Perks, has also been invited to attend.
Most if not all of you have walked passed Ling’s gift shop on Bloor Street. Mr. Alex Ling, an individual known to many as a champion of BIAs not only here in Toronto but nationally and internationally, passed away on September 24th.
Born on November 29, 1933, Mr. Ling was a key part in the group of local business owners who created and established the Bloor West Village BIA, the first BIA in the world. The success of the first BIA, Bloor West Village, inspired other retail districts to follow and become BIAs themselves. Today, there are 83 BIAs in the City of Toronto, and over 400 across the Province of Ontario. The BIA concept has been emulated throughout Canada, the United States and across the globe.
Alex Ling (Alexander Edward Ling) and his wife Helen moved to the Bloor West Village in Toronto in 1971. They thought they wouldn’t be so busy; however that was not the case. Alex became involved in the BIA right away. He was first elected as Chairperson in 1979 and worked very hard for the Bloor West Village BIA and the neighbourhood.
In the early 1980’s, with the help of City Hall, he started the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) to give support to all BIAs in the City of Toronto. Alex ate and slept the BIA philosophy. He loved the work and the challenge of the job. He was TABIA’s President for 19 years and in 2001 he finally engineered himself to Past President. In 2004 Alex became Chairman of the Bloor West Village BIA by promising to continue to help out, staying on as a Board Member.
He was also the pioneer and the driving force behind the Solar Powered Conversion of the Tree Lighting and Gas Lanterns in Bloor West Village. They have since retired 45 hydro meters from the Tree Lighting Program – no more hydro bills, and no more burning of fossil fuel from the Gas Lanterns! They will soon have a total of 60 Solar Powered Gas-style Lanterns in the Village.
Alex was constantly championing and working for the cause of small business. He was instrumental in acquiring a lower discount rate for Merchant VISA and MasterCard for his members. He has worked with a number of insurance companies on group insurance for small business, as well as natural gas rebates for business and residents.
Our is. Check out the rankings here and see why our unique place has become so desirable.
In our August update, the community was informed that both the City and BWVRA had no further objections to Developer’s most recent revised proposal and that the Developer was unwilling to engage in Mediation with the remaining three Parties to the proceedings at LPAT (Local Planning Appeals Tribunal). Under the circumstances, these Parties were given until mid-August to either provide a list of their remaining issues or withdraw. A fourth Pre-Hearing Conference was then scheduled, which took place on September 5th, by which time SARA (Swansea Area Ratepayer’s Association) had withdrawn, leaving two Parties, Arbor Memorial and Dennis Maslo (an adjacent owner on Humbercrest Trail) with unresolved objections to the proposal. Their issues relate largely to private property rights and are not of any concern to BWVRA.
In any event, on September 5th it became clear that the only remaining path to a conclusion of the Appeal would be a Contested Hearing which has been scheduled for April 23rd to 26th, 2019. This Hearing will deal specifically with the objections of the two remaining Parties. However, there is considerable uncertainty and debate about whether or not those matters are even admissible for adjudication at a Hearing. It is also entirely possible that the Developer may reach a settlement with these two Parties prior to the Hearing , in which case the first Hearing date on April 23rd would likely be converted to a Settlement Hearing.
Will Participants from the community still have an opportunity to express their personal opinions?
Regardless of whatever the situation is by April 23rd, those Participants that initially registered to speak at the time of the very first Pre-Hearing Conference back in September 2017 may also attend and present their personal views on the proposal. Other members of the public may also register to speak by contacting the LPAT Case Coordinator. However, in order to speak at the Hearing, ALL Participants are required to submit their written Participant Statements by February 1, 2019 to:
Tamara Zwarycz, Case Coordinator LPAT Case PL170556
Leading up to the Hearing in April 2019, what will BWVRA need to do?
As our Association has already agreed to the current revised proposal and the remaining issues are not of any direct concern to the community, our lawyer will only be monitoring and periodically reporting to us on the proceedings.
In the meantime our new Councilor, after the upcoming election, will be briefed at the earliest opportunity on our remaining concerns related to traffic and the re-design of the corner at Bloor Street and Riverview Gardens. We will then be relying on our Councilor’s Office to keep our community informed on how City Staff and the Developer are resolving the numerous anticipated traffic impacts from this proposed development. In addition, we will be expecting Staff to follow through on Council’s direction to consult with the community on an appropriate re-design of the afore-mentioned street corner.
That’s a picture of the Lawrence Avenue West bridge above, which was washed away… 81 people died in the greater Toronto area on October 16, 1954 and almost 4,000 were left homeless. Eerily, Hurricane Hazel actually followed a path very similar to the recent Hurricane Florence that hit the US last week.
Toronto Field Naturalists, in partnership with Heritage York, is organizing a local walk down memory lane, literally. Join Madeleine McDowell on this historical walk along the Humber River between Old Mill Station and Lambton House (4066 Old Dundas Street). The walk has steep stairs down to the path and a 2.6 km walk along the river banks where Hurricane Hazel flooded the bridge and shores. The walk also includes historical pictures and a cup of tea at Lambton House.
- Date: Saturday, October 13, 2018
- Time: 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
- Place: Old Mill TTC Station
- Leader: Madeleine McDowell
In our last update, we informed the community that a much improved proposal had been submitted by the Developer in late April, which has now become public information. Fortunately, most of BWVRA’s concerns with the previous proposals had been satisfactorily addressed in this latest submission with the exception of these two issues:
- Minimizing potential traffic impacts on the neighbourhood
- Resolving neighbourhood concerns about excessive wind impacts and pedestrian safety at the corner of Riverview Gardens & Bloor Street
With regard to potential traffic impacts, the main concern has been about the very large overall amount of retail space being proposed (approx. 5,000 sq. m.), and the Developer’s unwillingness to accept any restrictions on individual store sizes. We had asked for a limit of 1,750 square meters, as recommended in the recently completed Avenue study, which is a little bit larger than the No-Frills store in the Village but much smaller than a typical Loblaws, Metro or Sobeys. The main issue with a high-volume “big-box” store at this location is the potential impact from excessive traffic, it would be almost certain to generate, on the local street network that is already stretched to its limit.
The second issue about wind impacts and pedestrian safety mainly relates to the proposed removal of the more heavily used sidewalk beside the building on the Riverview Gardens frontage and the proposed retention of the sidewalk next to the road, which is considered unsafe by many local residents.
In any case, these two remaining issues were not considered deal breakers and our Board was anticipating that the third Pre-hearing Conference on June 28th would set the stage for the Mediation sessions scheduled for September 4 & 5. However, much to our surprise and that of the other three Parties, at the Pre-hearing Conference, it was announced that City Council, at its meeting two days earlier and on the recommendation of Planning Staff, made the decision to accept the Developer’s latest proposal.
In addition, the lawyer for the Developer also informed the Pre-hearing that his client was no longer interested in participating in Mediation sessions with the remaining four Parties. As Mediation is voluntary and all Parties must agree to participate, regretfully, this decision effectively put an end to the opportunity for us to participate in a Mediated Settlement.
Under these circumstances, as the only path forward, the four Parties have been given until August 17th to either also settle on the current proposal or present their outstanding issues to the Developer along with the names of the expert witnesses they will call upon should the Appeal proceed to a Contested Hearing.
But there is good news on our two remaining issues!
- On the question of Traffic impacts, in its recent comments on the Developer’s up-dated traffic study, City Traffic staff has been especially critical of the consultant’s findings. In particular, it was noted that there has been no recognition or assessment of the potential additional traffic that may be generated by retail stores in the development, and the capacity of the local street network to accommodate it. After reviewing the staff Memorandum, our Board is satisfied that the City has the traffic issue in hand and the proposed development will not be allowed proceed until staff is satisfied that there will be no significant impact on the local streets.
- With respect to the Riverview Gardens frontage, at the same time as Council agreed to settle with the Developer, Councillor Doucette was able to have a motion passed directing staff to consult with the community during the Site Plan review process, in order to arrive at an acceptable design for that corner.
In view of the very substantial progress on these issues, at a meeting on July 20th our Board made the decision to also accept the current proposal, however, we will retain our standing as a Party to the proceedings, just in case any or all of the other Parties do not agree to settle by the target date of August 17th, which could then lead to a Contested Hearing.
Boarders have been redrawn at Council. So do you think High Park is in the west end or east end?
Parts of our village are immersed in school traffic (kids, parents and cars) ten months of the year. This update suggests that coming 2019, pilot programs will begin towards increasing the safety of surrounding streets.