It might have been welcomed elsewhere in the city — especially along the Eglinton Crosstown, where the Midtown in Focus plan has recommended midrise developments of up to 11 storeys — but developer Pinedale Properties’ proposal for a six-storey, 54-unit condominium in South Hill was met with hostility by some 60 residents during a community meeting on Dec. 1.
Members of the South Hill District Home Owners’ Association and neighbours of 77 Clarendon Ave., condemned the proposal’s height, setbacks, density and impact on traffic, among other factors, with full support from Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, who said he would fight the proposal in its current form at every stage of the process.
The site is currently occupied by a five-storey, 10-unit rental apartment building,
“To say it with great respect and in the most temperate form I can consider, I think this [proposal] is absolutely crazy,” Matlow said to loud applause.
“It is not only absolutely wrong for this neighbourhood, but would set a dangerous precedent for neighbourhoods across the city,” he told the Town Crier afterward.
Pinedale’s position at the meeting was articulated by architect Les Klein and Bousfields principal Peter Smith, who began his presentation by saying they were attending the meeting to listen to the community’s concerns and continue an “ongoing dialogue” that the company has held since the beginning, including two community meetings in January and April.
As a result of those meetings, Smith said, Pinedale made some key changes to the initial proposal: it reduced the amount of glass used in the design and increased the amount of stone; it reduced the building’s footprint, particularly on the southwest corner of the site; and it reduced the overall density in two ways, by reducing the number of proposed units and increasing the minimum unit size from 600 to 800 square feet.
“We have not dramatically changed the design as some of you have requested, because … we feel quite comfortable with the proposal as it’s put forward,” Klein said. “That is not to say that we’re not going to listen, and it’s not to say that we’re not going to continue to have conversations with both the community and planners and the local councillor.”
“From a planning perspective … this is located within a ‘neighbourhood’ designation,” Smith said. “And not all neighbourhoods within the city of Toronto are exactly the same.”
Drawing attention to the five-storey apartment building currently on the site, which was built in the 1960s alongside two four-storey, Pinedale-owned apartments immediately north and south, Smith said the neighbourhood along Clarendon Avenue and nearby Russell Hill Road include a mix of building types.
“The context of what I’ve described here matters, because the context is special and different from neighbourhoods in general,” Smith began, before being shouted down by the audience, which was then scolded by city planner Emily Rossini.
The site’s current apartment building, which is deemed “high-rent” and therefore wouldn’t be subject to the city’s rental replacement bylaws, served as a foundation for the audience’s discontent, with Matlow acknowledging that it doesn’t fit the surrounding neighbourhood of two- and three-storey detached homes and townhouses any better than Pinedale’s current proposal, and set a precedent that “doesn’t make a load of sense” for the current application.
“This is an invasion,” resident Steve Alix said. “The last two meetings, everybody hated the whole thing. Everybody told them. They don’t listen. They have not changed one tiny iota…. They don’t care.”
“We’re going to end up with an enclave right in the centre of South Hill,” resident Al Pearson said, after informing the audience that Pinedale owns all three apartment properties. “The gentleman who owns Pinedale … is absolutely adamant that he is not going to do anything to change this, so it looks like we’re going to end up at the [Ontario Municipal Board], which ends up being very, very expensive for the residents, and is totally unfair.”
In response to residents who were concerned about the proposal’s impact on traffic, consultant Alun Lloyd told the audience that according to his research the proposal would raise the number of cars on Russell Hill Road by only four vehicles during the morning peak hour and by 10 during the afternoon peak hour.
“I had a fire truck that could not get to my home because he couldn’t get through the street, given all the cars that are parked on the road, given the construction, and given all the traffic trying to get out of our area,” resident Kelly Gray, who noted that she walks along Clarendon Avenue every morning and afternoon, retorted.
Another issue was the neighbourhood’s risk of basement flooding, with resident Christina de Auer saying the proposal would further strain on the neighbourhood’s recently renewed plumbing infrastructure in a way that Pinedale’s consultants and even city staff were likely to be unaware of.
“There would be a lot of residents who would not have necessarily reported to the city, but just reported to their insurance companies,” de Auer said. “If the city is not aware of all the flooding issues from this area, how can (the developers) possibly make an edified solution?”
In her final speech to the audience, city planner Rossini assured everyone who spoke that their feedback would be recorded, and that it would not be their last chance to speak up.
“What I’ve heard tonight is that there’s an existing traffic problem, there’s an existing parking problem, there’s an existing flooding and sewer and water problem,” she said. “So all of those things are really important and they absolutely need to be addressed.”