A history of Cabbagetown outrage

A history of Cabbagetown outrage

The late Rob Ford liked to say that every crane dotting the city skyline represents 1,000 jobs. You might also say that every crane represents at least 100 residents ticked off at whatever new thing is rising in their neighbourhood. And while complaining about the next condo development is a citywide pastime, nobody does municipal indignation quite like Cabbagetown residents.

The most recent complaint comes from Toronto Star reader Randy Brown, who emailed the paper to complain about some “ugly signs” the city put up around Riverdale Park West as part of a pilot project. Cabbagetown locals have found lots of other targets for their ire. Here’s a quick rundown of the past few years in supposed threats to the neighbourhood’s “character.”

The Cabbagetown Restaurant

Residents complained that the Cabbagetown Restaurant on Parliament Street had become a haven for drug use and drunkenness, prompting a hearing before Ontario’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission in 2007. The AGCO heard “ample proof that drug dealers and drug pushers” hung out at the restaurant. The operator of a nearby No Frills said he’d watched as a shoplifter walked to the restaurant’s patio “where he was protected by patrons.” The case illustrated deep tensions within the neighbourhood, between people who depend on sub-$10 lunches and those who are perhaps more concerned with fixing up their million-dollar heritage homes. Victor Jiang, the restaurant’s manager, attracted the support of lawyer Peter Rosenthal and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, but the business was ultimately stripped of its liquor license. There’s now a Wing Machine at its old address.

Image from Google Street View
The Beer Store

Last year, Cabbagetownsfolk objected to a proposed new condo tower at 227 Gerrard Street East using a well-worn argument: “It’s too tall.” Developer RoseWater’s plans for the site include a possible Beer Store—which, as Maclean’s reported last month, some residents don’t love. That’s interesting, considering what’s currently at the site: a Beer Store. Locals have said they don’t want the new location to accept empties, which apparently leads to lines forming outside the current Beer Store before it opens. The project is before the Ontario Municipal Board. Steve Thompson of RoseWater tells us he believes the company has addressed the locals’ concerns. The building proposal has been shortened by one storey to seven, he said. As for the Beer Store, he’s not certain it will actually be a part of the final development.

Image from Google Street View
The splash pad

In 2015, as the city built a new splash pad at the end of Wellesley Street, neighbours were in an uproar. Resident Steve Poulin said the new water feature would turn the park “into a hyperactive Disneyland,” and that the city’s design seemed reminiscent of a “Las Vegas waterworks.” But most offensive to the locals was a blue umbrella, an apparent affront to the neighbourhood’s heritage character. The city agreed to change the umbrella to green, but some neighbours were still worried. One resident was concerned the city might choose lime green, which she said was “not a heritage colour.”

The daycare

Earlier this year, Cabbagetown residents flooded a committee room at City Hall to speak out about a threat to their neighbourhood. Was it drug dealing? Gun violence? No, this was something much worse: a daycare. The would-be entrepreneurs who planned on opening a childcare facility in a long-vacant home clearly hadn’t reckoned with the incandescent rage of neighbours with mortgages and a lot of free time. “It’s an outrage,” resident Ken Mathieson told the Star. Pastel signage in the neighbourhood would be “truly distressing,” another said in a letter to the committee of adjustment. The proposal was rejected after members of the committee decided the proposed daycare would worsen neighbourhood traffic.

The bike-share station

In 2017, some residents calling themselves the Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District Committee wrote a letter to then-councillor Pam McConnell to complain about the placement of a Bike Share station near the northwest edge of Riverdale Park West. The station was close to three heritage sites, they wrote, and in their view it was incompatible with the local “character, rhythm and overall setting.” The committee wanted the Bike Share station moved to the southwest corner of Carlton and Sumach Streets. A rep for bike sharing company Shift Transit says that the station was eventually relocated to the intersection’s northeast corner, where we found it close to some new-looking bike rings.

The CityNews anchor

It was a story you could only find on CityNews—because the passive-aggressive note was delivered to one of their journalists. After City anchor Roger Petersen moved into a Cabbagetown home, he received an anonymous handwritten note offering some suggestions on his place. Petersen might stash his basketball net in the laneway, the letter-writer suggested, and some offending Christmas lights—a mere “four Tiki lights,” Petersen noted—should be dropped off at Goodwill. Petersen also survived a raccoon attack. All he needs now is a flooded basement to complete the Toronto homeowner trifecta.