At a city meeting last night, I realized everything you need to know about the City’s proposed rezoning of Preston Street north of Somerset can be gleaned from Finding Nemo.
The role of the shark was ably played by city planning staff. They controlled the location, the moderator, the display boards, the agenda, and most importantly the options presented for the public to choose from.
fish residents thought Preston north of Somerset, which consists mostly of residences, and has since 1902, as being a residential area. The zoning, which is all what most fish understand about city planning, has since 1963 shown it as residential.
Therefore, the word “zoning” never once passed the shark’s lips.
Instead, we were told, with semi-sad faces, that the sharks understood it was [currently] residential area, but alas, “planning documents” showed it as a traditional mainstreet since 2001, and without defining what a TM was or how that concept may have changed, and that designation permitted commercial use. They neglected to say that would require rezoning approval. Or that several neighbourhood studies thought there was no need to change the zoning.
So to help us little fish, the nice
sharks planners had drawn up three options for us to choose from, nicely shown on big colourful poster boards. Did we want a lot of commercial, or just a little?
The little fishies were entertained with cutesy stories of the little cookie maker who bakes cookies in his kitchen and sells them from his living room and grows up to open up a bigger cookie store [in a better neighbourhood, of course]. And of the little old lady making special sauces that displayed in her front window and sold only to neighbours, and only if they walked to her house, and only if they smiled nicely.
Of course, the sharks don’t have the rules nor the interest in actually delivering that idyllic image. It was pure planning porn. Looks nice, but you can’t have it. Why, these sharks are so friendly they are toothless. It’s not their fault if the commercial spaces turn out to be marijuana shops or rub-and-tug parlors or an after hours poker joint.
None of the options included leaving the area residential. Or leaving the zoning residential.
Remember, zoning was never mentioned by the planners. Only mysterious planning documents. And the Supreme Council’s orders that the planners play nicely with the locals only on the sharks’ department rules. Tch tch, our hands are tied, smiled the planners so sadly.
The little fishies in attendance suspected something was wrong. Why were there only choices about how much commercial? Why were the only choices about how much higher or denser new things would be? Why was the existing neighbourhood disposable because of proximity to LRT Stations when lots of neighbourhoods around the city are guaranteed no radical changes in their CDP’s??
But the little fishies lacked the vocabulary to challenge the sharks. A few brave bureaucrat-fishies asked about “proceedure” and “process”. The shark smiled benignly. See, fish and sharks are friends.
The cognitive dissonance between what the residents wanted — to preserve what they thought was good — and what the options were, was too great to bridge. Planner talk was smooth and baffling.
Maybe the sharks did have our best interests at heart?
What was needed, of course, was a Nemo to show leadership, to articulate what the locals couldn’t. The dismay in the room was palatable. As was the sense of being defeated and outplayed and bewildered as to why and how.
Only Nemo could unite the fishes to swim in one direction to break out of the net and escape becoming dinner. Where was Nemo?
Can anyone find Nemo on Preston Street?
Alas, our rookie councillor, Catherine McKenney stood on the sidelines, smiling with staff, her former colleagues. She was not offering leadership. * The last councillor who played so nicely with sharks was retired from the adjacent ward before she could feed more little fishies to the sharks.
The Disney movie has a happy ending. With room for sequels. Finding Nemo on Preston was a bit less cheerful. Turning the corner, the sequel may be Nightmare on Elm Street.
* this para has been edited from the original version because some readers thought it confused the role of the cartoon characters with today’s sexual politics, which was not intended.