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Can Leaside handle 40% more residents?

Kettel Chart

(Click to Enlarge)

We know that Leaside is facing major growth, but do we know how much? We need to know what the implications of growth are likely to be and whether the community is going to be able to address those implications.

If we compare the number of existing residential units in the Leaside residential area and the industrial park to the number recently approved and proposed, we can get a sense of the magnitude of the changes we face.

As set out in the chart at right, the number of residential units would increase by 40 percent from 6,727 to 9,437 units (and presumably the population would increase as well), but the nature of the growth is important also.

2,692 units (99+ percent) out of a total of 2,710 units are within buildings five storeys or higher. As a result, the composition of the housing stock in Leaside would change dramatically.

The proportion of single detached, semi-detached and duplex housing types would decline from 60 percent of the housing stock to 42 per cent, other low rise would decline from 28 percent to 20 percent, and units in apartment buildings of five or more storeys would increase from 12 to 37 percent of the total.

The chart includes the projects for which applications have been submitted to the city – it does not include other projects that might emerge such as the Canadian Tire site at Laird and Eglinton and those that may result from the city’s Eglinton Connects zoning changes to allow mid-rise on Eglinton from Sutherland to Laird. It also does not include Committee of Adjustment applications which generally involve renovations or demolition and reconstruction of existing homes.

While the community may engage and indeed oppose individual applications, it is clear that growth is coming. And it is of a new order of magnitude for Leaside.

What can we expect if these projects that are currently in the pipeline are approved and/or built? Are we prepared for this? Indeed, is the city prepared for this?

In a recent meeting with the directors of Community Planning, North York, and Toronto and East York districts, we were assured that in examining each individual application the cumulative effects were considered.

Certainly the city did recognize the need to understand and plan for the growth pressures arising from the Eglinton LRT in establishing the Eglinton Connects planning study. It acknowledged that much of the pressure would be at the major intersections like Bayview and Eglinton, and Laird and Eglinton, and commissioned Focus Area studies for these areas.

However it appears that the Bayview/Eglinton Focus Area plan, while technically completed, was done hastily and issues are now arising from its loose language (“predominantly mid-rise”), while the Laird/Eglinton Focus Area study that was supposed to study and plan for the mega-block from Laird to Aerodrome Cres., and Eglinton to Vanderhoof, never got started by the time the Eglinton Connects study finished and apparently has not been funded.

Meanwhile, the 939 Eglinton East development application that includes 1,500 residential units (55.7 percent) of the 2,692 residential units in buildings five or more storeys in height, is by far the largest development application that has been submitted in Leaside.

There are specific concerns about the nature of the developments being proposed.

They are massive in scale and far beyond what is intended by the Official Plan. They are often in areas designated Mixed Use Areas in the Official Plan, but are largely residential in nature with little thought being given to the provision of employment opportunities.

There is nary a word about office development. So where will the new residents work?

It used to be that Leaside was balanced between employment and residential – people left to go to work, and a similar number came in to work. But with the changes in the Leaside Business Park that is less and less the case.

Leaside is not downtown, and is not Yonge and Eglinton, yet this amount of growth represents the start of a transformation that will have major implications. It is therefore timely, and indeed essential for the future well-being of Leaside that residents and the city take stock of the implication of the anticipated growth. A host of important questions need answers:
• Are existing Official Plan policies adequate to guide the type of major redevelopment pressures we are experiencing?
• Will the community’s existing physical and social infrastructure (water and sewer, roads, sidewalks, schools, parks, etc) be able to accommodate the proposed growth?
• What community services and facilities are needed to ensure that Leaside remains inclusive, healthy and livable?
• Where are the opportunities to acquire new parkland and to improve the quality of existing parks and public spaces?
• How might we reduce congestion by improving conditions for walking and cycling?
• How can we maintain the Business Park’s role within the regional economy and as a generator of jobs?
• What can we do to ensure that growth being permitted is sustainable and does not significantly reduce the quality of life in the community?

It is essential, critical and urgent that the Focus Area planning study and review of infrastructure and public realm that was promised by Eglinton Connects be conducted for the Eglinton- Laird-Brentcliffe-Aerodrome-Vanderhoof block.

The city simply has to have a proper planning framework to consider the development applications that are here and those anticipated. We don’t have that right now and it is a real concern to the Leaside community.

Geoff Kettel appreciates the contribution of Doug Obright to this article.