Ontario continues not to care about how Toronto looks

Ontario continues not to care about how Toronto looks

Soon the Pink Palace’s vista may not be so pretty (Image: Sam)

One of the sleepiest of sleepy controversies in this city surrounds (almost literally) the legislature at Queen’s Park. The issue at hand is the north-facing vista of the parliament buildings, and the problem is that the more condo towers are erected along Bloor Street, the more the Ontario legislature’s scenic backdrop looks cluttered and unsightly. Local activists—namely, the Ontario Capital Precinct Working Group (OCPWG)—have been trying to bring the matter to the province’s attention ever since the Ontario Municipal Board permitted another set of vista-sullying high-rises at 21 Avenue Road, but so far their efforts have yielded basically bupkis.

Despite the province’s inertia, the activists seem undeterred—case in point: a strongly worded opinion piece in today’s Toronto Star:

The Ontario Municipal Board decision made it clear that it’s open season on the view of Queen’s Park if government doesn’t step in. The visual materials prepared by the Centre for Landscape Research and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario show what is entirely possible — and in fact quite likely — if no one acts.

At this moment, views of Ontario’s capital building are not protected by the City of Toronto or by the Province of Ontario. OMB member Steven Stefanko stated in his decision: “My role in this process is to implement policy, not create it.” Thus the OMB has turned the responsibility to act back to government, where it belongs.

Unfortunately for the OCPWG, we can’t remember the government overruling the OMB on any recent matter, much less one about the height of condo towers in Toronto. What’s more, the citizens alliance is going up against provincial policies that make areas like that stretch along Bloor Street prime real estate for condominiums. Essentially, Queen’s Park wants more density along transit lines, and the east-west Spadina to Yonge corridor is served by two subway lines, four subway stations (five, if you include Museum) and a streetcar line with dedicated lanes.

In other words, best of luck to the good people trying to save the legislature’s pretty view. But given how prickly cities and towns all over the province are about increasing density instead of expanding sprawl, it’s probably impossible for Dalton McGuinty to go to Ottawa and say, “Sure, we need more density everywhere—just not in downtown Toronto.”

What’s that growing out of the Legislature? [Toronto Star]