“Developers always win because the system is bullshit”: Rosedale residents on the area’s controversial new condo

“Developers always win because the system is bullshit”: Rosedale residents on the area’s controversial new condo

Forget Trump and road tolls. At Rosedalian dinner parties, there’s one controversial topic that looms heaviest of all: a luxury four-storey, 26-unit condominium that would wipe out three detached homes on Dale Avenue. The trouble? The project—by Dale Inc. and Dale II Inc., subsidiaries of Hunter Milborne Real Estate—is in the South Rosedale Heritage Conservation District. City staff are currently reviewing whether the development would break any of the district’s rules, but some neighbours are outraged at the very thought of putting up such a complex. Last week, the city invited stakeholders to the Church of St. Peter and St. Simon (who would curse in a church, right?) to unveil nitty-gritty details about the would-be building and consult the public. We dropped in and asked the project’s most vocal champions and critics to make their cases.

Peter Carroll

52, consultant • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
We just spent three years renovating our house; it was a very difficult, complicated project. The city had a lot of requirements and laws that we had to adhere to. Suddenly, a developer wants to build something that’s worth a lot of money, and the rules go out the window?

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
No, because it’s a heritage conservation district. This started 15-odd years ago, when Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz built their monster house. They bulldozed a couple of beautiful Rosedale homes, built a massive compound and then built one big house on it, sort of like the Bridle Path. Now we have something that’s even worse. You start bulldozing your house, my house—what’s left?

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
The developer always wins because the whole system is bullshit. It’ll go to the OMB, it’ll get rubber-stamped and we, the people who live here, lose.

 

Stephen Moranis

66, real estate consultant • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
I support it because I think it’s a thoughtful development. I think it gives people who want to stay in the neighbourhood an opportunity to scale down from a bigger home into a condominium. The density’s not huge, it’s a small building, it has large units, it’s going to have parking and it’s going to have lots of landscaping and privacy. I can’t see why people—other than those not wanting anything to happen—would be so opposed to this.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
Common sense should win the fight. To put things into perspective: we’re allowing 85 storeys at Yonge and Bloor, 95 over Holt Renfrew, and 16 buildings over 55 storeys in the Yorkville area. So to oppose something like this, you sort of have to scratch your head. Come on, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

 

 

Marcia Cunningham

63, educational consultant • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
I oppose it, vehemently, for a couple reasons. One is density. There are already several apartment buildings on Dale Avenue. The infrastructure is okay for the number of people we currently have, but it’s not a good idea to start adding density in the neighbourhood. They’ve allowed for 57 cars, too, so we’ll have a lot of cars. There are already traffic jams along Dale and along Castle Frank. When they’re not jammed up, they’re speeding, so kids can’t play. Another thing I really object to is that there’s no incentive for the developers to actually care about the neighbourhood. They don’t live there, they come in, they make their money and they leave.

Does it make sense to oppose new housing five minutes from a subway station?
There’s not enough room on the subway lines: if you’re taking the Castle Frank subway anywhere near rush hour, you may as well be in Japan—you’re squished like a bug. Adding another 50 or 60 people to that doesn’t help.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
Oh god, I wish it wasn’t always characterized as a fight. I feel there are factors in the developer’s favour. They have a lot of money and clout.

 

Bianca Pollak

50s, architect • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
It’s a great opportunity for people who live in Rosedale who don’t want to keep their houses but still live in the neighbourhood. They can have a beautiful apartment, which will replace their homes. There aren’t so many opportunities like this. I also believe the project will lift the value of the whole area—the design is great.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
Well, I believe we need a balance. We have to hear everybody and then we have to make a decision and balance all opinions.

 

 

Rubsun Ho

46, start-up CEO • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
I’m opposed to it because it’s a bit of a slippery slope. As far as I know, there’s a bylaw in place preventing these types of buildings from being built and against the demolition of single-family homes. I’m not opposed to densification, but what they’re doing here changes the character of the neighbourhood and it sets the precedent for a number of other homes to be torn down.

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
It’s not that I’m opposed to new housing. If you go across the ravine, there’s a number of 40- or 50-storey buildings being built next to the same subway station. It’s more that we have certain neighbourhoods in Toronto that need to be preserved: the history, the character, the neighbourhood, the liveability. If we start allowing all these single-family homes to be demolished, then we’re going to end up in an urban jungle. We’re going to lose the character of the neighbourhood that makes it special, the reason a number of us moved here and bought homes here.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds are highly in favour of the developer, and that’s what bothers me. We pay taxes and we elect our city councillors to represent our interests, and all it takes is a developer to submit plans. As far as I can tell, 90 times out of 100, it goes before an unelected body and the plans move forward. It just seems to me it’s the tail wagging the dog. Rules and bylaws are in place, but if there’s money to be made…

 

Hunter Milborne

66, CEO of Development company behind proposed condo • Lives in Yorkville

What do you think of the development?
We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people moving to Toronto every few years. I think this is an appropriate project for this location. But part of the beautiful process of democracy is that people get to come and voice their opinions. There’s the not-in-my-backyard concept, and there will be construction for a year or two, so it can be uncomfortable for some people, you know.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
I think the development will happen, but I don’t think it’s “win” or “lose.” It’s a process. Everybody has the right to their opinions and to have input.

 

Kathy Lee

50s, CEO • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
We completely object to this development. I lead the community effort called My Rosedale Neighbourhood. We have almost 300 people in the immediate area who oppose the development for different issues: it’s too big; it is precedent-setting for south Rosedale; the proposed architecture does not conform to heritage rules; it’s going to add too much traffic.

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
That is a very good point, because there is an argument that intensification is a good thing. But this is not in the spirit of intensification. These are units that are going to sell for more than $2.5 million. These are not people who are going to take the subway—they are going to get in their cars and drive.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
Absolutely the community, because we live here day to day. A developer cannot come in and pretend that he knows the neighbourhood better than the hundreds of us that have lived here for decades.

 

Julia Ouellette

59, philanthropist • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
I object to it on a number of bases—number one because it contravenes existing bylaws that were put in place to protect the integrity of the neighbourhood. Anyone who’s wanted to do a small renovation on their home has been subject to working within those bylaws. A developer comes in and none of the rules seem to matter.

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
I don’t oppose new housing if it is in keeping with the bylaws and the feeling of the neighbourhood: single-family dwellings. There are very good models out there for new housing that would be appropriate to the neighbourhood.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
I think the developer is going to win. I think the system is stacked against the individuals who have invested time, money and love to create a neighbourhood—a neighbourhood so attractive to developers that they want to come in and destroy it.

 

Katheryne Parzei

27, architect • Lives downtown

What do you think of the development?
I definitely support it. The design caters to the heritage environment and the scale of the building definitely adds some character to the neighbourhood.

Does it make sense for people to oppose new housing five minutes from a subway station?
I think that the city is getting bigger and bigger and, especially in such a beautiful neighbourhood, it’s important to allow more people to live in it.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
I really hope that we do.

 

Howard Bortenstein

63, management consultant • Lives in Cabbagetown

What do you think of the development?
I oppose it. In Cabbagetown, we’ve been through this: we saw the impact of developers, and then the Ratepayers’ Association was created in the ’70s to stop that development. Now it’s a beautiful environment. I think of this as the start of a slippery slope.

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
There is new housing five minutes from a lot of subway stations. I’m not sure why this particular neighbourhood needs to have that increased density.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
I sense there’s going to be a middle ground, a consensus. I don’t think they’re will be a winner. The developer will have to give, but residents will also have to look at their best alternatives.

 

Lewis Reford

55, renewable energy developer • Lives in Rosedale

What do you think of the development?
Speaking both personally and on behalf of the North Rosedale Residents Association, of which I am currently president, there’s a lot of opposition primarily because our community has a special characteristic. In the context of all North American cities, it has magically held onto its single-family residential status, filed with families, elderly people, dogs, wildlife and ravines. Rosedale feels it has to be strong in its opposition to the first of what could be many of these types of buildings.

Doesn’t it make sense for people to support new housing five minutes from a subway station?
No. On the contrary, I was walking across the pedestrian bridge with a visitor from New York City. His eyes opened with that magical revelation that this is something special. The juxtaposition of a green residential neighbourhood, with children playing and riding their bicycles, right next to St. James Town and the busiest shopping street in the city—that is in fact a wonderful thing to celebrate, not something that should be frowned upon as a sign of inequity.

Who do you think is going to win the fight?
I think that a lot of developments have ultimately prevailed with the help of incredibly strong lawyering and backroom deals. But I think all the way back to Jane Jacobs and the Spadina Expressway resistance: with the strong pushback of a community in a really passionate and logical way, this development can be stopped.

Correction

November 29, 2016

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz's home was located on Yonge Street.