It is the best of times — the city is busy planning the future of west side neighbourhoods. It is the worst of times — the imported planners are sent out with wildly different mandates.
It would be nice to compare those mandates, since they represent what the city (or at least the planning department) views those neighbourhoods as developing toward, but alas we can’t get those.
And increasingly, participation in the “public participation process” is only worthwhile if the planners are listening.
Let’s compare two studies.
George Dark is doing the Scott Street CDP. His presentations are full of “clear, precise lines”, specific setback data for each block, maximum tower sizes, etc. In contrast, the city approves his Carling-Preston CDP with a quick drawn zoning map that doesn’t even include details as to zone boundaries, and the verbal caveats won’t be caught in the minutes of the planning committee meeting nor provided later in writing.
On the Scott study, the plan calls for specific setbacks, detailed measures to ensure sight lines to the sky and light falling on existing neighbourhoods, but for Carling-Preston it is deemed suitable for 18 storey buildings to be set back merely 1 meter from two storey single family homes. Transition zones are only for some places.
For the Scott study, I asked the day after the meeting for copies of some of the presentation material, and got the whole deck of material almost instantly. For the Carling-Preston CDP, where a public meeting was held to “unveil” the public realm proposals, including road designs, bike paths, sidewalks, etc, I asked for some of the drawings so our Community Association could look at them and prepare comments, and was told NO, they aren’t available. Maybe later.
A month later, they are still not yet available.
What about getting info on one specific public road allowance, so we could calculate, on our own, what might fit there? We were told to measure it ourselves, and don’t forget to “check the OP” to see if there were any road widening mandates. City staff, we were told, is “too busy” to provide such basic info.
Over on Scott, the CDP boundaries were modified a bit as the study got started. These are carefully documented, and the public meetings start by reviewing the changes. Over on Preston-Carling, the study zones got changed at the very last minute, in what increasingly looks like a change due to political influence as there is no elucidated planning rationale provided, and the City then provides study boundary maps only with the revisionist boundaries, pretending the changes never happened.
So yeah, it is the best of times, if the big city consultants doing over your neighbourhood have a mandate to listen and incorporate changes.
It is the worst of times, if the big city consultants have a mandate you can only guess at, who hoard information, and hold only perfunctory meetings where they tolerate the citizen’s presence but ignore them.
Next: what complete streets?