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Please direct inquiries to Ossington Community Association Corresponding Secretary Benj Hellie


Thanks an enormous amount to all of the fantastic work done by so many of you under the SGO umbrella. SGO got the community through the first stage of this process with dramatic and smashing success. The time has come to regularize operations, and so today SGO will wind its activities down, freeze this group, and transfer its intellectual property to the Ossington Community Association.

Again, thanks enormously to each and every one of you. You helped set the stage for the next phase, and it could not have happened without you.


The Ossington Community Association warmly invites each and every one of you to join with it. We are on the web at We have an open Facebook Group, and I hope to see there in the near future all those who have taken an interest in the project of SGO.

The object of the OCA is to promote the flourishing of the neighbourhood -- from Crawford to Dovercourt, above Queen up to Harrison -- and its commercial zones: the Ossington Strip and the Dundas Bend within the neighbourhood.

The OCA is fully inclusive: any resident of the neighbourhood may become a member; we welcome local storefronts to our membership; and we extend a hand also to friends of the neighbourhood.

The OCA is working toward operation under a fully Robert's Rules-compliant organizational structure. The OCA was chartered on 3 July 2012 and is operating for its initial phase under provisional bylaws.

Over the coming months, the OCA has two principal projects. The first is to roll out a membership drive. Once a sufficient membership base has been attracted, the OCA will hold a fully general meeting and begin progress toward an election of officers in full compliance with Robert's Rules.

The second project is to represent the neighbourhood and its commercial zones in regard to pending development issues. The OCA has inherited the intellectual property of Smart Growth for Ossington, which has wound down its operations.

To maintain operational continuity, the charter meeting elected a provisional Executive Board: President Jessica Wilson, VP JP Manoux, Treasurer Rob Corkum, Corresponding Secretary (aka Communications Director) Benj Hellie, and Recording Secretary Scot Blythe, as well as Directors Jamie Angell (from the business community) and Daphne Ballon (as friend of the neighbourhood). Two Directorates remain open, as does the VVP position, as do 21 seats on the Steering Committee.

The OCA extends a warm welcome to all residents and storefronts in the neighbourhood and its commercial zones and to all friends of the Ossington Community.

Let's keep talking about Ossington.

Write city officials about 109OZ: Mike Layton, Councillor; Francis Kwashie, City Planner
Basic facts about 109OZ are here.
Join us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter; watch this video documenting our community's fantastic response to the current crisis

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Remarks on the '109OZ' proposal


(Disclaimer: all of this information is 'to the best of our knowledge'. We are not lawyers, planners, or architects, but are merely concerned citizens attempting to provide honest and straightforward information to other concerned citizens. If you notice errors of fact or interpretation, please let us know and we will issue any necessary corrections as soon as possible. We apologize in advance for any confusion that may result from our errors; as always, we feel that each citizen should digest a range of sources of information and form her or his own opinion on the issues of the day.)

Our neighbourhood -- from Trinity-Bellwoods Park out past Dovercourt, and from Queen up past Dundas -- is a lively but laid-back, beautifully leafy place. It is multigenerational and multiethnic. Ethnic lines are not barriers, but sources of richness, as residents regularly reach across lines and share perspective and experience.

Our neighbourhood's peaceful leafy bustle makes it a wonderfully pleasant place to cycle, sit on the front porch, walk dogs, play with kids, chat with neighbours in the street, drop in on galleries, visit with friendly merchants, or enjoy the many green park spaces.

The school communities around Givins-Shaw and Santo Cristo are tightly-knit and involved. Halloween is a collective festival along our many residential streets. Thanks to these communities, existing solidarities, an open-minded artsiness, and the "front porch" culture, "borrow sugar"-type neighbourliness prevails. It makes our neighbourhood a safe place, where the streets and laneways are walkable at all times and children grow up with a sense of community.

And of course we are also graced with the Ossington strip. On weekends things can get a little rowdy and back patios generate some conflict. We all have been waiting years for a more servicable retail mix. And some of the galleries are coming to find the rents too high.

But the strip still sustains many daily needs, with its hardware store, pharmacies, and bakery. For those who like restaurants and bar/patio culture, what a dream! The foot traffic makes the former brooding strip of light industry and heavy vice seem safe and effervescent.

And from a collective perspective, the Ossington strip is one of the city's cultural treasures. The strip is, and always has been, a place that does not quite fit the mould. The foot of a former military road, Dundas Street, the strip eventually lost that identity as Dundas became absorbed into the city's quotidian horizontal flow. The strip's identity as the foot of Ossington Avenue henceforth has been incongruous: the higher reaches of that street are entirely residential. In the lowlands of the Garrison Creek system, down by 999 Queen Street, Ossington rested for decades -- away from the quotidian east-west corridors of quotidian Toronto life -- as a place of light industry and heavy vice. Overlooked, off the grid, it was a place where mystery and possibility were in the air.

The eventual emergence of the strip as a restaurant and nightlife destination is deeply rooted in that sense of mystery and possibility. As a place both orthogonal to and yet accessible from the quotidian streams of Dundas and Queen, it is a place in which urban flows can pool and rest. This restfulness, and the low temperature stemming from the strip's odd and somewhat lurching mix of low buildings, cultivates and nourishes the sense of mystery and possibility. It is this sense which provides the 'anything goes' vibe of the strip: a vibe which once transmuted into vice, and now transmutes into both more genteel pleasures for its visitors and a sense of freedom and creativity for its small entrepreneurs.

This is the context into which Reserve Properties proposes to introduce a truly huge structure: one that would contain three times as much built volume as all other structures on the block *combined*; one that would break up the 'funky' vibe with a single vast chain store; one that would have far-reaching and dramatic offensive impacts on the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The proposed building would be nine storefronts wide and 82 feet high (with the top 12 feet a "mechanical penthouse" housing HVAC units). By comparison with the three-story building next door containing three storefronts (Golden Turtle, Frantic City, and Hollywood Foods), it would have roughly seven times as much facade.

It would also occupy almost all of the depth of the lot, rising 70 feet. That means it would have fifteen times the volume of the three-story, three-storefront building to the north. It would also put under one roof three times as much volume as all other buildings on the block *combined*.

Its nine-storefront width is one-third the length of the block. That storefront is built extra-high -- the height of the Boehmer building, and half the height of the three-story building to the north. That storefront would house a 10,000 square foot chain store: when the developer sells the retail space for roughly $5 million, anyone who made that investment would demand the security that only comes from a nationwide tenant. A one-third block length chain store would harm the "small-scale, artisanal" character that makes Ossington such a great place for nightlife while doing nothing to redress the dearth of daily shopping needs on the strip.

Finally, at 25m high -- even 21.5 minus the mechanical penthouse -- it towers over the existing streetscape. Ossington is 18m wide. Every principle on planning says you don't build above the width of the street.

Still, it is our position that even 18m would be out of place on the traditionally low-rise Ossington strip.  Very nice construction is possible within these constraints, of course: think of 131 Ossington, home of the O'Born gallery, only three years old. We think the developer should build something like that. To push the ceiling further would be to raise the feeling of "urban pressure" on the strip. And it is the relaxation of that pressure that brings the very sense of mystery and possibility responsible for Ossington's allure as a destination and safe-place for creative expression.

The building would introduce 70 more parking spaces to a block currently containing less than 40. It would squeeze this traffic through a narrow opening out across sidewalks which are major paths to Givins-Shaw School, and then into Argyle, part of the city's bike network. (The laneway would also be graced with a two story blank wall, a tractor-trailer loading dock, and a twelve-foot-cube power transformer.)

The building is proposed to have 80+ balconies, up and down both sides. These would look down into the lands of houses along Givins and Argyle, and perhaps even Brookfield. Given the size of the units and Reserve's "party building" marketing strategy, the potential for constant late-night party noise harassing the neighbourhood is serious. Bylaw enforcement is not sufficient to keep noise down. The city should act affirmatively to prevent harassing late-night noise, rather than rely on neighbours to fight an unending battle to stop it.

This building is entirely out of place on Ossington. What is going on here?

The developer is trying to put a midrise building on a lowrise strip. Midrise means five to ten stories; lowrise means four or less. It is clear that the developer is trying to do this because they have hired the person who wrote Toronto's "Avenues and Midrise" study as a consultant for the project. But it is not appropriate to build midrise on Ossington: Ossington is lowrise.

Says who? Says the Official Plan and the city's Planning Department.

First, the designation of which streets are "Avenues" and therefore slated for midrise development is found on Map 2 of the Official Plan. Although many surrounding streets are designated as Avenues -- including Dundas, Queen, King, College, and Bloor west of Bathurst, as well as Roncesvalles -- Ossington is left off. This is because an Avenue is a "corridor": a street that goes on and on for miles. Ossington is not a "corridor": it is only 600m long.

Moreover, the Avenues standards call for development to be "incremental, building-by-building". But this proposal is the width of nine ordinary buildings, and replaces two structures and a lot. That is not "building-by-building". At one-third the length of the block, it is not "incremental". And finally we suggest that the economic pressures that would be let loose from the realization of the proposal would result in what could only be regarded as catastrophic, rapid change.

Second, the Area Study of 2009 characterizes Ossington as "similar to a traditional main street" in its existing built form.

Moreover, that study recognizes the importance of maintaining and strengthening the main street *function* of the strip. It notes that residents call for "a greater diversity of businesses (e.g., grocery stores, dry cleaners, etc.)". And it justifies a certain recommended cap on restaurant size on the grounds that to do otherwise would "strengthen Ossington as a regional draw rather than a local retail strip". So the planning department recognizes that, alongside its restaurant destination character, Ossington also has the function of serving as a retail center for the community, and needs to serve it better.

Third, the Area Study recognizes that Ossington has "emerged and continues to grow as a popular draw for restaurants and similar uses", speaking of it also as "a regional destination". The Planning Department recognizes that the establishments which give Ossington this character exist within its existing main street character, finding that the 175m^2 cap it recommended was larger than nearly all existing establishments and "should not detract from future desirability or success of Ossington as a commercial avenue". Ossington's status as a destination is tightly bound with its existing vernacular built form: the tight retail rhythm not only does not detract but strengthens its desirability as a destination, and the main street character of the massing and scale of buildings is an inextricable ingredient of the "charm" that goes into making it a destination. We contend that it is the lowrise character of the strip, and the attendant sense of the relaxation of urban pressure, that makes possible Ossington's status as a destination, as a place of mystery and possibility, as a safe-place for creative expression, an escape from quotidian banality.

Finally, we contend that this recognized use of Ossington is incompatible with huge retail space of the sort they desire. We say the structure should have at least five shops in it.

Some say that the belle epoque centers of Paris, London, and St Petersburg are midrise. That is of course true. But the comparison is facile.

First, an energetic downtown lifestyle is possible in Toronto, just as a more neighbourhood-type lifestyle is possible in Paris, London, and St Petersburg. The residents of our neighbourhood paid to experience a neighbourhood-type lifestyle. The Official Plan contains language intended to secure this lifestyle. Governmental failure to enforce this language arguably counts as a "taking" for the benefit of the developers -- no less than forcible and unanticipated conversion to a neighbourhood lifestyle would count as "taking" from those who choose to live downtown: whether in Paris, London, or Toronto.

Second, injecting a single midrise condo -- even several -- into lowrise Ossington would not make our charming neighbourhood, and the beguiling Ossington strip, into belle epoque Paris, London, or St Petersburg. It would only make it into a significantly degraded version of itself.

What then is the developer thinking? We can speculate:


Clause 2.2(3a) of the Official Plan reads:

"The City’s transportation network will be maintained and developed to support the growth management objectives of this Plan by:
a) protecting and developing the network of rights-of-way shown on Map 3 and Schedules 1 and 2 by:
i) acquiring over time the additional property needed to achieve the designated width. The conveyance of land for widening may be required for nominal consideration from abutting property owners as a condition of subdivision, severance, minor variance, condominium or site plan approvals;
ii) extending and altering the widths of pavement, sidewalk and other facilities as necessary within the designated rights-of-way".

Map 3 says that the right-of-way width "associated with" our stretch of Ossington is 20m.

So this clause says that the city is supposed to acquire land so that the distance between building frontages on Ossington goes to 20m. Remember that it is now 18m. So this clause means the city sees it as a good thing to tear down existing buildings on Ossington so that the road can be widened to 20m.

That policy is alarming. What is more, it is baseless. Nowhere are the widths in Map 3 justified.

Indeed, the orange lines on Map 3 conceal what is really a basket of apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, and watermelon. Traffic department data on the west end streets (roughly, Keele and Davenport to Spadina and King) with a 20m right of way indicates that -- out of the 31 stretches for which data is available, only one stretch carries less traffic than our stretch of Ossington: Dovercourt from College to Bloor. And about one third of those stretches carry in excess of 70% more traffic than Ossington.

Legitimating the destruction of a recognized main street destination on the basis of a line drawn on a map is the sort of thinking behind the Spadina Expressway.

Moreover, the Official Plan is supposed to be understood "holistically". This means that no call has overwhelming force above anything else. The harms to the surrounding area ensuing from the existing proposal must be accommodated. That they are large is denied by none.

It is hard to say how to weigh costs and benefits, and the OP provides no algorithm. But here we say there is no benefit from forcing the city into conformation with Map 3. And any harm exceeds a benefit of zero size.

Finally, there are legal barriers to widening Ossington, which would not likely be overturned. Ossington is home to at least three historic buildings: the Levack Block, CAMH Detox, and Quasi Modo buildings already have historic designation. Others should as well: for example, the Angell Gallery building housed Toronto's first library!


The Official Plan calls for growth and intensification in the core.

Some interpret this as a call for approval of height requests above the existing by-law in all cases. But we find no basis in statute for this interpretation.

The Official Plan provides no definition of "intensification". Going intuitively, we think this means "an increase in size, volume, or use-value of existing structures over what they replace".

The previous use was as a used-car lot and auto mechanic and a distributor and social club. Merely building as-of-right would result in intensification by this standard.

More generally, there are only a handful of buildings on Ossington that are at the current 14m height limit; the vast majority are in the vicinity of 1–3 stories.  There is a very large amount of intensification that could occur within the present 14m bylaw limit, compatible with preserving the distinctive "main street" character of Ossington, and with almost no negative impact on closely abutting residential neighborhoods.