Editor’s Letter (August 2013): the party pooping Parkdale restaurant moratorium
Parkdale on a hot summer night is an exceedingly fun place to be. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat at Grand Electric, the boisterous Queen Street taqueria, you’ll have one of the city’s best fish tacos, in a room with the energy of a university house party. Nearby, there’s the sushi bar Kanji, with 14 types of sake. A few blocks west is Keriwa, the epicentre of the nouveau Canadian cuisine movement. A night out on the western fringe of Queen is a guaranteed good time, full of culinary adventure and people-watching.
Since 2008, more than 30 new restaurants have opened on Queen between Dufferin and Roncesvalles. Rents are low, and the spaces are small—ideal conditions for young entrepreneurial chefs to experiment. And diners can’t get enough, lining up for hours on the sidewalk for tables. Some come from outside the area; others live nearby—they’re the photographers, TV writers, designers and ad agency people who have been scooping up Parkdale’s attractive old houses for a decade or so. The area is creative class central, and real estate prices are rising accordingly; in 2002, the average Parkdale house cost $330,677. In 2012, it was $592,596.
A happy story, right? A sign of the city’s economic well-being and the overall health of our downtown? Not according to Gord Perks, the area’s city councillor, who says the restaurant invasion threatens to wreck the existing mix of stores and services that Parkdale residents rely upon. He is also concerned that the new wave of partying produces too much noise and traffic. Back in 2011, he asked the planning department to study the impact of restaurant proliferation. He later lobbied city council to impose a 12-month moratorium on new restaurants, until the results of the study were known. This spring, city hall planners released a detailed 30-page report that proposes something radical: the restriction of restaurants along the strip to 25 per cent of all businesses. The proposal is soon going to council for a vote. If it passes, it will be the first of its kind: targeted city hall restaurant kiboshing.
This strikes me as totally bananas. Shouldn’t the city be encouraging economic growth? As for noise, if restaurants are violating municipal bylaws, the city should fine them. We have rules that govern such things. Let’s enforce them.
But of course the dispute isn’t really about noise. It’s a culture clash: old Parkdale versus new. The preservationists versus the gentrifiers. The report, alas, comes down hard on the side of safeguarding the status quo, even though its authors can’t identify what’s worth preserving. They admit the area “has experienced vacant storefronts and undesirable activities related to drug use and crime,” and yet they fret that restaurants threaten Parkdale’s future chances for a “healthy” and “well-functioning” main street.
In reality, the strip is still a hodgepodge of dingy storefronts struggling to stay afloat: itinerant dollar stores, last-resort jewellers (“We buy gold!”) and payday loan outlets. Hooray for the restaurateurs willing to move in, fix things up, attract new business. It’s galling to think of how much time and taxpayer expense has gone into studying the so-called problem of too many restaurants in Parkdale.
Here’s the thing: cities are never static. They are either growing or shrinking. Happily, Toronto is growing. Yorkville was once a sketchy few blocks of clubs and coffee houses. Until recently, Leslieville was pretty dodgy. Parkdale is following in the footsteps of many beloved Toronto neighbourhoods, one taqueria at a time.
16 thoughts on “Editor’s Letter (August 2013): the party pooping Parkdale restaurant moratorium”
…and what about the poor?
Another rich person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The “itinerant dollar stores” are what many of the people in that neighbourhood depend on because they aren’t able to afford $15 tacos and beergarita. The line ups are the food banks make Grand Electric’s look small. Bring in something people in the area actually need not these bougie restaurants and bars that don’t contribute anything before 5 pm.
Agreed. Take a walk through Parkdale in the morning before the restaurants and shops are open and you’ll see the homeless, poor, and mentally ill.
Another rich person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The “itinerant dollar stores” are what many of the people in that neighbourhood depend on because they aren’t able to afford $15 tacos and beergarita. The line ups are the food banks make Grand Electric’s look small. Bring in something people in the area actually need not these bougie restaurants and bars that don’t contribute anything before 6 pm.
And you are another white person who thinks it’s edgy to be “down with the struggle” FOHWTBS.
It’s those making $ 80-90-100,000 plus moving in on the 30 somethings. Guess who’s going to win.
Edgy and empathy are not the same thing.
Firstly, the author needs some additional criteria for evaluating city life other than “growing or shrinking.” (Really? This is all that matters? *sigh*)
Secondly, I agree that it was incredibly audacious of Gord Perks to consider all of the members of the community he serves. Did he not get the memo that $ = power?
Thirdly, the question is really if you want to have more of the same (i.e. gentrification in the name of sacred “economic growth” and, of course, fish tacos), OR a truly *mixed economy* that requires local government to regulate local economy (and if this strikes as you as restrictive then what IS government for? More importantly, WHO?). The data on gentrification is out there and Parkdale could be yet another example. OR Parkdale could be a pioneer for 21st-century cities that are struggling to treat this recurring dilemma. Think for a moment of what Perks, et al. are doing: they’re trying to foster a society that actually makes it possible for diverse peoples to live amongst one another.
Lastly, I will listen to Ms. Fulford’s opinions when she has eaten at St. Francis Table for a month. Sadly, they do not serve fish tacos.
I am all for gentrification as long as store owners contribute to housing programs for the mentally ill, homeless and affordable housing. The government should show it’s support by releasing goverment owned properties to make affordable housing allocated to people in the above at-risk groups along-side CAMH with supportive housing and maybe there wouldn’t be a need for them to hang out in the street if they had somewhere to call home. There are some at-risk housing out there but they are lowly funded and do not really offer supportive housing they just give them the apartment or room and they live as they did on the street and never get out of their vicious cycle. Parkdale could be a nice place to live if slumlords were not allowed to charge extortionate rates for roach and mice infested buildings like the ones along every side street from Roncesvalles to Dufferin owned by corporate coffers who don’t care about fixing or cleaning them up. As long as the government keeps allowing landlords to charge extortionate rents and doing little repair and the backlog to subsidized housing grows any progress or gentrification will always be met with reluctance by local MP’s including Perks.
“Hooray for the restaurateurs willing to move in, fix things up, attract new business.” Oddly, not the same reaction for Walmart in Kensington.
You are expressing an opinion that clearly demonstrates a lack of
knowledge on the topic you wrote about. It’s unfortunate this was
I think your article is narrow-sighted. By
no means am I a fan of Councillor Perks, but I have to agree with him on this
I moved into the strip 7 years ago and one of the reasons I have not left is
because of the constant exciting and dynamic changes. The area is a mix of many
socio-economic, cultural, life-style and ethnic affiliations. This co-existing,
co-operating, multi-layerd diversity represents the best Toronto can and should be.
The real divide is between those who are a part of the community, endeavor to
be good neighbours and respect Parkdale and its residents. This includes:
renters, home owners, antique shops, Easy, recent refugees, the Tibetan
community, the Roma community, new immigrants, CAMH patients, local
non-profits, Jinx Cafe, professionals, after dark super-heroes and many more;
Those who come into the neighbourhood to exploit money-making potential,
disrespect residents who struggle with mental illness or make a living by
asking for change or collect recyclables, could care less about the art of
living in a multicultural, “hodgepodge,” crowded urban neighbourhood
and restaurants with repulsive garbage disposal practices.
Restaurants like Local and Salumi have added great value to the economic and
cultural aspects of Parkdale and should be welcomed. However, if Councillor
Perks can keep out restaurants like Keriwa and Maialino who have shown a
complete lack of respect for their neighbours, only suck what they can from
Parkdale and take-off to the suburbs and attract clientele that can’t muster
enough humanity to at least acknowledge someone who asks them for change, then
I will support him.
Snotty Gordie aught to pay a visit to St. John’s Newfounland’s George St – only two blocks long, with over 40 bars, restaurants, and english style pubs, that open early but don’t start really rockin’ till midnight and go on till 6 am ! Snotty Gordie is just an old fart fuddle duddle who doesn’t know how to spell the word – fun.
This was obviously written by someone who doesn’t live in the Parkdale, but rather an occasional visitor (probably on the hunt for nouveau hipster snacks that received critical acclaim in Toronto Life). The noise pollution which Perks speaks of is not a problem that can be fixed by simply slapping restaurants with fines. The noise isn’t even coming from within restaurant walls—it’s coming from the streets: more cars, more foot traffic, more sidewalk revelry, more yelling, more drunken tomfoolery and more vomit on my front door. Street noise in nearly impossible to enforce. And yes, Queen W. west is more than a platform for experimental grub—it’s also home to many residents, who work hard like anyone else and enjoy a decent nights sleep.
Parkdale has enough bars and restaurants now. We need more fruit markets and book stores.
What the heck is wrong with restaurants? Parkdale as Toronto’s dining district would be one heck of a step up from outpatient and halfway houses. Toronto is growing and social services will have to move further. East Scarborough would be the perfect underused district to move them to.
Parkdale was not always “rough around the edges” or “dodgey”. Does gentrification include converting back to the original true glory of the area? The rooming houses and crack dens that can be found in and around Queen West and King West exist due to a change in the neighbourhood decades ago. The parkdale of the 80’s and 90’s [and present to less extent due to some recent positive changes] is not something any neighbourhood should desire. Regular stabbings, rape, drug problems etc is a HUGE problem whether the victim is homeless, mentally ill, hipster or “bougie”. Wouldnt it be interesting to hear from some of the residence that made up parkdale from the start of the 1900’s to the 1960’s [like mine]? My mother is happy to see new life being blown into Parkdale; crackhouses [like the one I just gutted] being converted into beautiful homes once again. Money being spent by “visitors” on the Queen Strip whether it be from new restaurant or bars. Parkdale is an interesting area that has been changing since it was built – Do the residence that have only been here for the past couple decades really believe the beautiful brick homes and buildings [some with Gargoyles – amazing!] was built for scene it endured recently? FYI people – The Hell’ Angel’s didnt always have a hangout in Pdale. Im sure you can find at least a couple ol’timers that remember better days from Parkdale – the brand of community that embraces more business for more value which will bring in more tax from both business [ no tax on property or business that is vacant] and real estate. The mentally ill wandering the streets need better care, the drug addicted need rehabilitation, the criminals need to be arrested – all things that need to be addressed before a bloody ban on restaurants. Good politicking Gordo! Who has the money to get all this done? WE DO IF THE AREA MAKES MORE MONEY. And to all those residence that are protectionist against the revitalization [not gentrification] of Parkdale – go read more books and stop buying drugs outside of Friend’s Bar And Grill.
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