A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for September 2016

[DM] “On the growth and the aging of Canada’s population”

At Demography Matters, I have a brief post linking to two articles on Canadian demographics, one noting that Canada has breached the 36 million mark and the other observing that trends including the relative decline of the working-age population means slow economic growth for the foreseeable future.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 11:59 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Ghost towns, gay villages and missing faces”

At Daily Xtra, Kevin Dale McKeown writes about his neighbourhood can change at a blink of an eye. People and places can disappear almost without taking note.

As I pass Granville Street on my way east along Robson, I cannot walk by the India Gate restaurant without hearing the music of the ’70s spilling out from the 616 Club and imagining dropping in and letting Big Bird pour me a stiff gin and ginger.

Across the street at Robson and Seymour there’s a shiny steel and glass Roger’s Wireless outlet. I recently went in and asked the young staff what they’d think if a flash mob of senior citizens suddenly arrived with a boom box, and started wobbling about to Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” or lip-synching to Shirley Bassey’s “This Is My Life!”.

Just as they were exchanging concerned glances and wondering whether to call security, I explained that we were on the dance floor of what was once Faces, the hottest gay disco in town. I paced out the location of the bar and they were suitably amused when I did a little disco move to demonstrate where the mini-stage had been when Gary Gilbertson was our first go-go-boy. They laughed, and I felt surrounded by ghosts.

There are few places in downtown Vancouver or the West End where I don’t have moments like that. At Davie and Seymour I see the drag queens hurrying out of Champagne Charlie’s to cab down to BJ’s on Pender Street for their next show.

Further down Davie Street, I walk with the long-gone girls on their way to the Davie stroll and Tranny Alley to pick up the latest street-level gossip. I have moments when I almost expect to run into young Jamie Lee Hamilton loitering outside the White Lunch.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 10:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Mayors seek $12.6-billion from federal Liberals for affordable housing”

The Globe and Mail carries Jordan Press’s Canadian Press article looking at a new initiative by Canadian mayors to get federal funding for affordable housing.

The mayors of Canada’s largest cities are making a billion-dollar push for federal housing money just as the Liberals are set to finalize a national strategy, and the minister responsible is trying to manage expectations.

The mayors want the federal Liberals to set aside $12.6 billion during the next decade to help build new affordable housing units and alleviate a growing need in places like Toronto and Vancouver.

The lion’s share, about $7.7 billion, would go to repairing and maintaining existing units nationwide. A further $4.2 billion would go to building up to 10,000 new affordable housing units annually across the country. There is also approximately $700 million for a portable rental subsidy that wouldn’t be tied to a unit, but to a recipient.

It’s a major ask of the federal government as it works to finalize the second phase of its infrastructure program and allocate $17.7 billion for affordable housing, seniors homes, recreational facilities and child care — with each of those sectors competing for the cash.

“The highest need for most of us would be housing, and it’s not to say there aren’t pressing needs for seniors’ infrastructure, for culture and recreation infrastructure, and for child care space infrastructure, but without adequate, safe and decent dignified housing for families, those other services are less relevant,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, chairman of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities big city mayors’ caucus.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “What is Vancouver doing with Airbnb, and what does it mean for Toronto?”

Metro‘s May Warren reports on Vancouver’s measures to limit Airbnb’s impact on the market for renters. What is Toronto doing, the article goes on to ask?

Vancouver’s quest to regulate sites like Airbnb could serve as a blueprint for Toronto as the city grapples with the effects of short-term rentals on the housing market, experts say.

The west coast city is proposing bylaws that would ban so-called ghost hotels — short-term rentals that people aren’t living in — and require business licences for anyone using Airbnb.

Vacancy rates in Vancouver are at historic lows, and the move is an attempt to bring 1,000 rental units back onto the market, Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Wednesday.

Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Unite Here Local 75, which represents hospitality workers, applauded Vancouver’s proposal as a “great first step.”

Combined with their new vacancy tax, Wieditz, said Vancouver is “leading the charge” on making sure that rental units are not taken off the market for short-term stays.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Plan to develop Toronto’s Galleria mall raises ire of city councillors, residents”

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeff Gray reports on the proposal to radically redevelop the Galleria Mall, my neighbourhood’s centre at Dupont and Dufferin.

An ambitious plan to demolish Toronto’s dated west-end Galleria Shopping Centre and replace it with a sleek mix of condos, shops, office space, a new community centre and a large park is expected to get a rough ride as it includes a cluster of towers, one as high as 42 storeys, more than twice the height now allowed on the site.

“I think it is completely out of context and the character of the neighbourhood,” Ana Bailao, the local city councillor, said of the proposal from a joint venture of ELAD Canada and Freed Developments, which were to file a master plan with the city on Friday.

Ms. Bailao said the towers could create shadow impacts, and she has concerns about traffic and the strain on public transit that the dense development could create.

Still, she said there were many good things in the plan to rip up and redesign the site near Dupont and Dufferin Streets, a rapidly gentrifying area traditionally home to the city’s Portuguese community.

Ms. Bailao praised the developers for launching community consultations over the past year and incorporating that input into their designs, which include a fully funded and expanded community centre to replace the aging existing one.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 7:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Falling glass shut down Bay St. for second day in a row”

The Toronto Star‘s Alina Bykova and Emma McIntosh report on Bay Street’s problem with falling glass.

Glass fell from the Sick Kids Centre for Research and Learning for the second day in a row on Thursday morning.

Bay St. was closed between Elm St. and Walton St. around 5:30 a.m. when the glass fell from a window on the fifth floor of the building.

Cpt. David Eckerman from Toronto Fire Services said that it fell from about 50 feet up.

The road was closed for nearly two hours, causing traffic and TTC routes to divert as police investigated and cleaned up the scene.

Falling glass is a frequent issue in the downtown core.

It was the subject of two $20-million class-action lawsuits in 2012, when shattered glass incidents prompted developers at Murano Towers on Grosvenor St. and Festival Tower on John St. to seal residents’ balconies.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Who owns the air that Rail Deck park would be built on?”

The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro reports on the interesting legal uncertainties surrounding the proposed Rail Deck Park.

A group of developers is laying claim to the rights over a large stretch of the rail corridor downtown, complicating the city’s intention to build a 21-acre park in that space.

Mayor John Tory last month announced the proposal to build a rail-deck park between Bathurst St. and Blue Jays Way — which city staff now say could cost more than $1 billion. The mayor’s executive committee voted last week to move ahead with that plan, which Tory has backed as a legacy project.

The city, Tory and local Councillor Joe Cressy have said that preliminary talks over the sale of the air rights over the active rail lands with two rail companies, who say they own most of those relevant rights, have been “positive.”

But Matthew Castelli, a GTA developer behind Senator Homes and the Kingsman Group, says those air rights have already been sold to a consortium of developers that includes the Craft Development Corporation, based in Etobicoke.

“I can’t really talk about anything at all. The only thing I can confirm is I’m part of a consortium that do own the air rights over the rail lands,” Castelli told the Star on Friday.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 6:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “How (Not) To Restore Urban Waterways”

Torontoist’s Emily Macrae reports on what lessons, positive and negative, Toronto can take from Seoul’s bringing a buried waterway to the surface.

Today, the Cheonggyecheon stream flows through almost 11 kilometres of downtown Seoul, but it spent much of the last century covered in concrete. As the city grew, the stream became increasingly polluted, until it was paved over in 1958.

When an expressway was built along the stream’s course in 1971, it seemed like local politicians had literally prioritized the circulation of vehicles over the water cycle.

However, between 2003 and 2005, the city invested $900 million (U.S.) to restore the stream and remove the elevated highway. Today, water once again winds through the downtown while the source is anchored by a large public plaza.

[. . .]

From an environmental perspective, the stream is only a partial victory. As activist and academic Eunseon Park explains, the stream bed is made of concrete, which limits integration with surrounding ecosystems and contributes to an expensive algae problem.

Socially, the project lacked public consultation and was instead pushed through by the mayor, intent on cementing his legacy before entering national politics.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 6:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “How Local Farms Connect Torontonians With Food Security”

Torontoist’s Catherine McIntyre reports on how Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is encouraging Torontonians to cultivate some of their own food. This is an amusing idea, but–speaking as someone who has his own pots–I doubt the contribution to overall food security in Toronto will plausibly be that significant.

A 30-minute drive from his home near High Park, Carl Leslie’s peppers are turning a deep, vibrant red. “Sweet bell pepper success!” he proclaims in a photo caption to his social media followers. “First time ever. A testament to a hot, hot summer.”

Leslie’s harvest—of peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, squash, and some 30-odd other fruits and vegetables—is also testament to the success of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) near-urban agriculture projects that now span the GTA.

Since 2008, the TRCA has been partnering with agricultural organizations and private farmers to develop farm enterprises closer to the city. These farm initiatives offer farmers like Leslie, who live in or near urban centres, access to land, equipment, and mentorship needed to run a startup or family farm.

Leslie runs his half-acre plot on McVean farm, a 45-acre chunk of TRCA land in Brampton within Claireville Conservation Area. McVean, one of the TRCA’s four near-urban farms, is managed by Farm Start, which leases the land from the TRCA and rents out small plots to farmers. For some land-users, McVean is a pilot program—somewhere to dabble in farming before deciding whether to scale up and buy their own land. For some, it’s a place to grow food for their families and communities without moving out of the city. And for others, it’s simply a way to feel connected to the land.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2016 at 6:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO shares photos of the new Yonge-Eglinton Centre.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling makes the comparison of the Middle East now to central Europe in the Thirty Years War.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting a T Tauri star just two million years old.
  • Joe. My. God. reports on the conviction of a man who had been accused of involvement in kidnapping the child of same-sex parents.
  • Language Hat reports on the American Jewish accent.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that Republicans are coming to accept Donald Trump.
  • The Map Room Blog reports on a Boston exhibition of Hy-Brasil.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the 9th anniversary of the Dawn probe’s launch.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer points out that Erik Loomis is wrong, that Ford is not moving jobs to Mexico.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests an isolated Russia might lash out against Belarus, and looks at Putin’s support in non-Russian republics.