Bearing gifts to Troy

I had a lot of problems with the Driving Plan for the Preston-Carling high rise intensification zone, outlined in the previous post. But what of the rest of the plan? Was there some good stuff to suss out of the dross?

First, keep in mind this is not a community-up plan. No one is asking us for how we want the neighbourhood to evolve. Mayor Watson — and make no mistake, there is a really high level mandate here — is wanting virtually a clean slate. It’s circa 1960 urban renewal all over again: bulldoze it all, build a shiny new city to remember someone by as a “transformative mayor”. The outside planning consultants haven’t so much parachuted in the ‘hood as been dive bombing it. Jim wants his own high rise metropolis to rival Toronto’s CN Tower area and Little Italy is about to wear it all.

I already recounted how the Planning Consultants from the Centre of the Universe consult by telling us what our problems are, and prescribing their wonderous fixes, highlighting the innocuous whilst keeping the dirty stuff in the background.

public realm oct 1 proposal

1. The City has numerous CDP’s and Transit oriented Development plans underway. Carling-Preston is just one. But note that the Cyrville-Train-Trembly says this:

“To further encourage walking and cycling within the TOD Plan areas, motor vehicle speeds will be reduced along select roads and at key locations. The maximum posted speed limit for Coventry, Tremblay and Cyrville roads will be reduced from 60 km/h to 50km/hr to help facilitate a more pedestrian and cycle-friendly environment. Opportunities for other similar speed limit reductions, including opportunities to reduce design speeds, will be encouraged.” (p. 17)

Do you think the new Scott CDP will advocate for freeways/arterials and higher speed roads?

Has there been any mention of speed limit reductions for Carling (currently 60km/h), Preston, Rochester, Booth etc.? To ask the question is to answer it. Instead, the planning gods here are focussed on how to push more traffic through the area. The only element missing thus far is a freeway-style interchange, but given time there are some possibilities.

2. Tree planting zones: this neighbourhood is dreadfully short of street trees. Part of this is due to the property owners themselves who seem eager to pave anything green, to rake in the riches from selling parking spaces to NRCan and Adobe employees, etc. The city co-consipires by ignoring front yard parking which has become endemic. Then it cheerfully agreed there was no room to replace trees along residential streets as they are reconstructed, leaving us with barren moonscape environments better suited for Detroit than Ottawa.

So the planners want to have some bigger trees. Where to put them? In the park, of course. But that isn’t very big either. So they propose bigger tree pits along the streets, to hold more soil, so the city can plant bigger trees. These larger pits are fine in theory, but each time they ratchet up the standards it actually reduces the number of qualifying spots to plant trees.

It might be possible to plant some large-growing trees along the OTrain pathways, except the soil is shallow, the OTrain folks don’t want tall trees that might fall onto or drop branches onto the tracks in an ice storm, and the east side OTrain path south of the Queensway won’t be very wide once the “turning circles” are installed on all the dead end streets, extending asphalt onto the greenspace  (mews like, of course).

It is made worse by their advocacy of …

3. Bury the wiring. Overhead wires on superannuated tree trunks isn’t usually considered aesthetic. So the planners suggest we bury the wiring. Alas, almost all the local streets were recently reconstructed, so this is somewhat late. OK then, just bury them on the blocks where high rises are planned. This will, of course, help condo sales and allow us to gush OH WOW when we gaze upon these 40 storey plus cliffs of concrete.

Except that burying the wiring will take up more of that already crowded underground space where the tree roots are supposed to spread. And unlike Toronto, Ottawa usually leaves the access boxes and transformers above ground (you know, those big green boxes that take up all of the front property or intrude onto the sidewalk zone).  Will all those access points now be underground in vaults, and still leave room for trees?

4. A major developer has whispered to me that the cost of burying the wiring will take up all of the discretionary money in the sec 37 or other developer contributions, leaving no funds for the aesthetic streetscape improvements. Oh oh. (more on funding, way below).

5. The planners like the idea of naked streets, ie a brick or brick-and-asphalt paved street with no elevation difference (ie no curb) separating the sidewalk from the road. All one surface. These are trendy planning ideas.

The City once had one of these nearby, on Primrose, where the street for a block in front of the park was paved in brick, the sidewalk was brick, separated from the street by a slight rolled curb. The City, over time, replaced the curb with a typical raised one to better separate the two, for safety of children, of course, and more recently replaced the brick sidewalk with a concrete one, to better identify the “pedestrian realm”. The brick paved street portion has also shrunk drastically.

With the short dead end streets, I have some serious reservations about how well we can get some naked streets, given that the number of driveways and front yard parkings. It may be a sea of asphalt from house to house.

Maybe the sidewalks should go down the middle of the streets? There was a post here a few weeks ago proposing just that.

6. The planners propose to restrict trees to the north sides of the cross streets, to be more in the sun. No trees on the south sides. They have a marvellous residential street drawing showing this, with a line of parallel parked cars. The entire row of houses on 18 and 25′ lots hasn’t a single driveway, in the planner’s world. So there is lots of parking, lots of room for trees. How will this work when every house has a driveway and many have paved front yards with nose-in front yard parking?

I challenged the planners to come to the next meeting with real drawings showing all the driveways, actual tree locations, same as the Carling drawing has to show all the turn lanes that reduce the median space to zilch. Planners love to show these misleading drawings without turn lanes, without driveways, without real life, that just gets in the way of their planning porn (you can see the pic, drool over it, but can’t have it).

7. The plan thus far is way to catering to car traffic, what with new roads, new streets, new “mews”, new turning lanes, removed landscaping, etc. Will anyone really want to live there? Missing from the plan thus far are targets for modal split, such as the other Ottawa CDP’s have:

“The sustainable modal share targets for the busiest peak periods in the TOD area assumes that public transit will account for at least 65% of all trips with an additional 15% made by “active” transportation modes which includes cycling and walking. The residual 20% of the peak period trips are expected to be made by private automobiles (15% driver/ 5% passenger). Improvements to the cycling and walking infrastructure in the TOD areas to support trips made by active transportation modes will be undertaken as stand-alone capital projects and incrementally over time as redevelopment occurs.” (p. 27, tremblay, train, cyrville plan)

Of course, the planners don’t have an easy time of modal split, since some in the community want more cars, and more parking. Until Preston looks like Merivale strip or a big box plaza in Barrhaven, they won’t be happy.

8. New park space: the planners today carry on with the Dark plan for buying up the Beverly Apts on Champagne and demolishing them to expand Tremblay Park. This might be a genuine attempt to expand the park; but it is also a neat move to remove some of the last remaining affordable apartments in the area. Mixed income or cheaper accommodation has no place in the Preston-Carling plan.

The plan calls for a all-brick street, raised, where Champagne will pass through the new park, to slow traffic. Hmm.

Obviously embarrassed by the paucity of green space on their park map (pictured above) they resorted to colouring the sides of the Queensway freeway embankment green. Alas, they are silent on plans by MTO to reduce the amount of greenspace on the north side of the Queenway starting a Rochester and going east. Oh well, if was never on their map, I guess we won’t miss it when its gone. And the city has no power to require MTO to keep that greenspace either.

They also glamorize the “urban square” (ie, paved space, with a few trees in planters) spaces proposed for the Richcraft and other development sites. While nice urban amenity spaces, they aren’t parks.

Their proposed new pathway on the west side of the OTrain is already a requirement of the development approvals for the condos there, so that is an already-promised green space being re-promised. Alas, they neglected to continue the path north along Railway Street (a real Mews !) or utilize the existing under the Queensway underpass.

Similarly, they forgot the opportunity to call for the path to go under Carling when the bridges over the OTrain are replaced when the OTrain gets double tracked.

It was abundantly clear at the last meeting that park space or people space was a distant low priority compared to commuters and residents in cars.

9. The one thing we are really sure of is that thousands of condo owners will own dogs. And they will all be going for a “walkies” (ie, poopies) at supper time. just how user-friendly will that OTrain pathway and park be if is dog-pooped the way the river parkway is goose pooped?

Maybe we could get Ottawa’s first doggy toilets installed.

I first saw dog toilet in Monaco in the 70’s: square concrete depression, drain hole to sewer in the centre, fake fire hydrant on the pad, foot pedal on the side for the dog guardian/servant to depress to “flush” the poop down the drain. Here’s a similar one:

dog toilet 1


10. The Planners from the Centre of the Universe showed often through the meeting that they had certain marching orders, and they were very adamant that they were sticking strictly to them. No deviations. So for things like the impacts of traffic on residential streets, those are outside their mandate.

And for opining on the merit of nine storey buildings along the dead end streets, that is simply a “given” they are working with. I was just following orders, Sir. How does para transpo service these buildings? Or taxis? Pish and pshaw, those are details to be checked later, at site plan.

How very far from other neighbourhood’s CDP’s where wording like this can be found, but NOT here:

“Some areas within the TOD Plan boundaries have clusters of existing lower density residential development. Except for minor infill projects and second unit additions to existing homes, for example, these areas are identified on the TOD Land Use Plans as “Stable Neighbourhoods”. These locations were not planned in the TOD studies for future transit-supportive development intensification but the existing populations within them have been counted in the TOD Plan “people density calculations”. Small-scale infill and redevelopment projects within Stable Neighbourhoods are not subject to the minimum density targets for TOD areas, as established by the Official Plan.” (p. 11)

11. To give you an idea of their attitude to redevelopment, Taggart has a proposal they are pushing through planning process for a five storey building and a nine storey tower. The five storey section is designated for four floors in the new neighbourhood plan ( I have no doubt they will eventually get five).

But in the meeting, the Planners, some of whom are also engaged under separate contract to the big developers owning property on these streets, continually and repeatedly referred to the proposal as being “3 or 4 stories”. And the other consultants never corrected him for this obvious mis-statement, even though they are very familiar with the developer’s actual plans. Is it any wonder locals feel there is a conspiracy, that everything is being ramrodded through the area.

12. funding. All the nice tree pits and new park land and new MUP requires money. (I am presuming the City will readily find money somewhere for the road widenings and to “facilitate” rush hour traffic). The Planners say these features will come “in the fullness of time”, “over the next 30 years”.

But there is no guarantee these amenities will come. The planners will have cashed their fat cheques and disappeared. But the rezonings are guaranteed, and fully in effect right away. And developers will find the money to build their towers.

So how does the community get the amenities? I asked the city for an answer, in writing, and got this reply: we are working on it. Do you have any ideas?  But first, they will approve the rezonings, and the amenity plan, then sometime later they will figure out if they can pay for it. If we can’t pay for it, just leave it on the plan in case it rains money; but in the meantime get going on those condo towers.

As it happens, I have a plan for how to pay for it. I have elaborated on this previously: development fees should continue. Section 37 funds are a special tax on new home owners, they discourage the very urban intensification and downsizing we are supposed to want, and are a form of extortion. It places the City in an outrageous conflict of interest since it “sells” rezonings and directly benefits from breaking its own rules.

I would rather see the City commit to spending the first two years of additional property tax revenue due to any infill or new building in the existing urban area, on public amenities in the immediate area. Then the City can keep the next 98 years of revenue for whatever general purpose it desires.

Your say:

The Planners from the Centre of the Universe will be holding an open house on Tuesday, Oct 8th, at 6.30 pm at St Anthony Hall (beside the Qway, not the church). They will tell you what you are going to get, from 6.30 to 7.30; and keep you busy on “workshops” for the following hour.

A classic kettling and containment exercise.