“Our property values will surely go down”: How Beach residents feel about the possibility of becoming part of Scarborough

By Jennifer Cheng| Photography by Giordano Ciampini

The 44 wards that make up Toronto are like pieces in an imperfect jigsaw puzzle. Some are home to nearly 100,000 residents; others don’t even have half of that. So, as it does periodically, the city is redrawing its ward boundaries to make sure each area contains—and each councillor represents—roughly the same number of people. Easy, right? Nope. This month, city council will consider three options: slash the number of wards and councillors to 26 to match federal ridings, add three new ridings to better reflect population growth or, most controversially, rejig the boundaries of the existing 44 wards—an option that would split The Beach in two and officially render the eastern portion part of Scarborough. Now that council’s back in session, we hit the boardwalk to ask Beach residents how they feel about the looming changes and the prospect of being called Scarborians.

Maria Dittrich

50, professor, Beach resident since 2009 “I’m against becoming a part of Scarborough because it will affect our taxes, and because, historically, The Beach belongs to Toronto. But if it happens, I’ll just accept it. It won’t really change my life.”


Stephanie Woodward

38, Research director, Beach resident since 2014 “I’m a proud Beacher. I don’t necessarily associate with downtown Toronto or Scarborough. If the redrawing is just to even out the number of residents, that’s not a good enough reason to me. What’s the current problem other than a numbers game? At this point, I don’t have an issue with how I’m represented. I don’t want to be complacent, but I subscribe to the ideology of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”


Steve Roe

62, retired, Beach resident since 2014 “I’m against the ward boundaries being redrawn, because I don’t think we have anything to gain from being part of Scarborough. If we are, the value of our properties will surely go down. I don’t mind being called a Scarboroughite—I lived there from the 1980s ‘til 2014—but why change The Beach? I’ve been coming down here for picnics and games since I was a kid. I like things the way they are.”


Ola Sivan

34, realtor, Beach resident since 2009 “This issue is absolutely inconsequential. It’s not meaningful for anyone but bureaucrats. Becoming a part of Scarborough will not make our immediate concerns go away or exacerbate them. If trees fall during a storm, it’ll still be the City of Toronto clearing them. I’ll still live at the same address in the same community with the same lovely neighbours. I don’t see it happening—that people will say ‘Oh, look at this dirty Scarboroughite walking down the street.’ My identity is not determined by the number of my ward.”


David Occhipinti (with Sofia)

49, musician, Beach resident since 2009 “I grew up near Victoria Park and Finch, and I remember being adamant about being from North York instead of from Scarborough. There was a stigma about being part of Scarborough. But now, I don’t think it will affect us too much. There are no borders, there are no walls. We are all human.”


Leigh Fenwick (with Adelaide and Hugh)

38, marketing manager, Beach resident since 2011 “My husband is from Scarborough and his family still lives there, so we go there all the time. It’s such a vibrant place to live, with so many services and amenities, so much shopping and culture. I think it’s underrated. Just this past May, we threw my five-year-old daughter’s birthday party at a community centre near Birchmount and Kingston. I don’t think the value of properties in The Beach will go down if the ward is redrawn to be a part of Scarborough. It’s the location and lifestyle that people are paying for. It’s like Pleasantville, but our motivation to live here was not because we wanted to say, ‘We live in The Beach and we’re so cool.’"




Valerie Todd

74, food bank coordinator, Beach resident since 1970s “I know a lot of people don’t want to become part of Scarborough. But I think there’s a bit of a snob factor. There are so many things in life to be angry about. This is not one of them. I would prefer to be part of The Beach—it feels comfortable and familiar—but Scarborough has lovely places, too. It’s wonderful and diverse. I run a food bank there. It doesn’t bother me as long as we have councillors who stand up for the things we need. It’s not changing the geography of The Beach, just the name.”


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