On Tuesday evening, the City held a public event on the planning staff’s suggestions for the Carling end of the Bayview-Carling CDP. It was a bureaucrat’s ambush: announce loudly that the City is listening, then do everything possible to make the people shut up.
Recall that the planning recommendations were ghost written by the City’s favourite strategic planner, George Dark. They include a new district of the highest high rises in the city, along Carling Avenue. They confirm the high rise monoculture along the west side of the OTrain corridor. And most contentiously, they recommend a row of mid-rises along the east-side of the OTrain, requiring a major destruction and change to the existing Little Italy neighbourhood of small homes.
The Tuesday meeting room was set up with display panels of the six theme maps, as first revealed here at WestSideAction in January. There was the large 3D model of the neighbourhood blanketed under a veritable blizzard of Styrofoam high rises.
The event was abundantly flooded with planning staff. There was a good crowd too, although I forgot to count just how many. Probably a hundred or so. Holmes was there, but I didn’t see Hobbs, which was strange, given that see made a point at the PAC of saying the PAC didn’t necessarily reflect the views of the community and she wanted to hear those first hand from the little folks.
Consultation and Listening can take several forms. This meeting revealed Lee Anne Snedden, Watson’s new manager of Policy Development and Urban Design, to be a master at shutting down a crowd. The session opened promptly, while people were still arriving The opening speeches were astonishingly quick, because they were so thin. No question period. When a vocal member of the audience persisted, the session ended, with Snedden walking up to the person to talk one on one, which of course eliminates any opportunity rouse the audience.
Hold the meeting as far away as decently possible from the affected area. Keep the crowd dispersed around the room. Make sure there is no focal point. No one to yell at. No opportunity to make grand stand statements that elicit cheers. Minimize any opportunity for concerned citizens to hear other news or views, no sharing, no learning. Hog the microphone. No opportunity for a community spokesperson. Nothing for the TV cameras to capture, no conflict, nothing to see here folks, move on.
Within a short period of time, the crowd dispersed, the city collected “comment sheets”. Reporters were relegated to wandering the fringes of the dwindling attendees, reminiscing over previous, more exciting battles, interviewing the same old same old (ie, me) again and again.