Battles for good planning are lost only once but must be won over and over and over again to continue prevailing. Once again, we are struggling against a small-minded view that would attempt to contain the full flow of the Don River in storm as it courses through a waterfront newly coated with densely packed buildings including a possible big box development.
What former GPC candidate Sharon Howarth led the fight for was the broad and compelling vision of a Don Mouth re-born into something like what nature intended for it – a broad wetland floodplain with a meandering river, filled with songbirds and tall grasses and boardwalks for people to enjoy. Her vision prevailed in the public mind and thousands of citizens demanded it. This led to an inspired visioning process that created an award-winning and internationally recognized design. Since that time, the elements of that design are constantly being chipped away in the name of economy and profit.
Write to your Councillor now (all comments must be in before April 15 so do it today before you forget) and demand that the City recommit to more green space and more renaturalization. Demand more wetlands to economically clean the air and water, and to help absorb and manage the floods that climate change is likely to inflict on the city.
Local area Councillors in Toronto-Danforth:
Mayor Rob Ford
Councillor Mary Fragedakis
Councillor Paula Fletcher
Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon
Full list of Councillors:
Sharon was never satisfied with any of the plans put forward, including the award-winning design – because it featured significant residential development. From Sharon’s perspective, the entire Portlands should be devoted to the renaturalization of the Don River. This would create a very large urban park, similar in size to Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a little smaller than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Chicago’s Lincoln Park and a little larger than New York’s Central Park. Toronto has no urban park of this scale, and the Portlands is the last remaining section of the waterfront that could be transformed in this way. It also involves the only remaining major river mouth within Toronto that could be renaturalized. This truly is a last chance opportunity. We can do it right, or we can lose that opportunity forever.
The current public consultations take the award winning design and make it “economical” for rapid development by straightening and minimizing the path that the river and floodplain take, and by dramatically increasing the built up areas and reducing the green space. If built as planned now, the area would become another nondescript development bordering a largely engineered riverbed.
The current plan for phasing would begin with a build-out of the area north of the Keating Channel. In my opinion, that’s fine. It’s a fairly narrow strip between the railway tracks to the north and the Keating Channel to the south. It is already partially developed, it is hemmed in, and it wouldn’t be expected to take much of the flow from the river.
Immediately after this, however, two rather disastrous developments would occur. First, a very fast and dirty flood path for the Don would be engineered in a straight line south of the point where the Don hits the Keating Channel, removing any option for a more natural-looking path. This would enable the development of the quays in the Portlands. These quays were supposed to be the focal point of the new waterfront park in the award-winning design. If this plan goes forward, they would instead be transformed at this early stage into offices and apartment space. This development is also expensive and possibly foolhardy – the quays are effectively on the tip of a large protrusion of land that would require long and complex engineering for delivery of city services.
The good news is that nobody likes this direction. At the public consultation meeting last night, that was the top comment – that we were trading away the broad and compelling vision for the rapid development of ugly. Virtually every comment made reflected a demand for dramatically expanding the green space. The second most popular demand was for securing massive amounts of green space and wetland in perpetuity so that we wouldn’t have to have these battles over and over again.
If you’re curious, go to the meeting tonight which will cover the same ground (below). But note that I’ve been to these “public consultation meetings” many, many times before. The comments are dutifully collected and compiled and then almost always ignored. If we want to prevent this disastrous process from moving forward, then we need to press our elected representatives to reject it. So send a letter, make a call. It matters.
Port Lands Acceleration Initiative
Wednesday, April 4 2012, 6:30-9:30pm
Westin Harbour Castle
Metro West Ballroom
1 Harbour Square
You can also participate online here:
|— Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu on 2012 Apr 4|
in Actions, Ecology & sustainability, Participatory democracy