A common theme loomed over all the presentations at the Leaside Property Owners Association’s annual meeting on Nov. 25.
The 70 residents were treated to a variety of presentations, including speeches by LPOA director and professional urban planner Doug Obright, Don Valley West MP Rob Oliphant, Ward 26 councillor Jon Burnside and LPOA co-presidents Geoff Kettel and Carol Burtin Fripp.
But they all dealt with the sheer number of developments — and the people they bring — encroaching on Leaside, Fripp pointed out.
Planner Obright, for example, “basically showed us what we’re facing and how we could deal with it,” Fripp said. “The neighbourhood really has to work together, because we are so surrounded by development pressures — not just on our periphery, but also within, with whole blocks changing their look one house at a time.”
Obright referred to recent proposals for 146–150 Laird Dr., 660 Eglinton Ave. E. (Sunnybrook Plaza), and 939 Eglinton Ave. E., among others. He divided the many development applications for Leaside into three types: neighbourhood applications, which may replace older houses with newer ones; applications for mixed-use areas, which developers increasingly see as viable sites for anything from the eight-storey retirement centre proposed for Laird to the towers of 19 storeys or more proposed for Eglinton; and applications for designated employment areas, which in Leaside stretches south of Vanderhoof Avenue, west of Leonard Linton Park, and east of Laird Drive.
“Some of these developments are not that problematic if the number of storeys is reasonable, and there are appropriate setbacks from the surrounding lower-density development,” said Obright, who has lived in Leaside since 1979. “But some of those developments in the mixed-use areas are massive, like 939 Eglinton.”
“It’s a concern, because it creates a different type of streetscape, and it really detracts from the community’s heritage,” he added.
In response, Obright said, the Leaside community needs to collaborate with the city in identifying heritage properties and updating the neighbourhood’s design guidelines, and develop ways to ensure those new guidelines are followed.
In the case of mixed-use sites such as 1787 Bayview Ave. (the former McDonald’s site), the community needs to collaborate with city planning and Councillor Burnside to ensure the city’s own Eglinton Connects planning guidelines, which encourage midrise developments of up to 11 storeys along the LRT now under construction, are followed, he said.
They also need to collaborate with each other, Obright said, as too many Leaside residents sleepwalk through development news that is more than a block or two away from them, thinking someone else will address it, leading to the patchwork of LPOA-led sucesses such as the preservation of the Thomas Elgie House at 262 Bessborough Dr. among OMB-led defeats such as the seven-storey condominium now under construction at 2 Laird Dr.
His purpose as the LPOA meeting was to help the community understand the implications of what is happening and get them involved so that they can have their say, Obright said.
Newly elected MP Oliphant acknowledged Leaside’s most pressing concerns would largely fall under municipal and provincial jurisdiction, but noted that many issues, such as the neighbourhood’s need for infrastructure upgrades, would benefit from federal investment, and promised to be an advocate for them in Ottawa.
“I was able to canvass the whole of Leaside twice during the election,” he said.
“The number one issue that I heard at the door was about infrastructure, transit, road safety and road congestion,” he said.
During the election the federal Liberals promised to nearly double federal investment in infrastructure, including transit, from $65 billion to nearly $125 billion over the next 10 years, which Oliphant said will provide Toronto’s municipal and provincial governments with “a tremendous opportunity to help people in Toronto move around.”
Echoing Obright, Councillor Burnside’s message was to recognize the fact that Leaside is a community, and in order to steer its future it needs to stand together as a community.
“People may think it doesn’t make a difference, but it does,” Burnside said. “My job is to advocate for the community, and when I have a strong, unified community behind me, with many voices, then I’m that much more powerful as an advocate.”