The Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) has again demonstrated the amazing capacity for an unelected and unaccountable body to wreak havoc on community aspirations. Essentially rolling over and siding with condo developers against the local community and the City, this is a terrible decision. The precious jewel that is West Queen West is at risk, and few options are available. Read the Globe, Toronto Star, Torontoist, Spacing, Reading Toronto.
Read the personal stories on 48 Abell’s A Blog for a Building to understand the cultural fabric that currently exists. Check out this “Bohemian Tragedy” for a hint of the area’s faux-boho future. (Who dresses like that?)
It’s not just a matter of a few artists being displaced from cheap studios, it is the character of the entire area that is at risk. Those condo owners will discover that much of the authentic local culture they bought into will have disappeared when they want to sell. It’s a bad investment unless the cultural fabric of the neighbourhood can be protected and nurtured.
I agree with Rob Oullette, this decision may have sown the seeds of the OMB’s demise. He points out an important precedent and parallel: the Greenbelt Plan was a policy response to unaccountable and ineffective OMB decision-making that threatened environmental sustainability. Other jurisdictions have formally adopted the four pillar model of sustainability; ensuring that environmental, social and cultural sustainability dimensions are brought together with the economic pillar in setting development policies across government. If the OMB incorporated these dimensions into its procedures, there is no question that there would have been a different result. Toronto’s future as a creative city depends on its ability to sustain its creative urban ecology.
First of all, I have to give respect to the Active18 group for being so well organized, for being inclusive and not at all reactionary. Active18’s approach all along has been YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). These are not people that reject intensification and development. But these are people that will live in the area for another generation and who are interested in sustainable development of a precious creative, cultural and economic resource – the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood.
Active18 is a community group that includes professional planners, lawyers, real estate developers, artists, architects some of whom are very experienced in the world of development. And with all that talent and capability, this neighbourhood and the City’s plan were simply ignored. What hope is there for any other community to fulfill its aspirations and pursue its own dreams of its future?
How can the OMB, a quasi-judicial body, an arms-length agency of the provincial government, be made accountable for helping support sustainable communities? How does the OMB reinvent itself for the Creative Age, where cities need to be supported as they reimagine themselves for the future. The Board is appointed by Cabinet, it’s list of members is here. This is a policy question, and a political one as Ontario enters a new political season.