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Beach Development Guidelines Ruffle Residents

Is a six-storey building too much for the Beach?

Rendering of the proposed condo development at Queen East and Kenilworth.

When the flagship Lick’s Restaurant at Queen and Kenilworth announced it would be closing for good after 32 years slinging burgers, to make way for a condo development, some Beach residents balked. The proposed new six story building does not fit in with their sense of neighbourhood, and they’ve been rallying to try to stop its construction.

It’s one in a long list of examples of friction in the east-end community, which has resisted a great many development proposals in recent years. A new set of principles has been proposed to try to improve matters: the Queen Street East Urban Development Guidelines [PDF]. The guidelines, explains the City report on the subject, are intended to balance new development in the area with “the desire of the local community to maintain its existing character.”

Those guidelines will be discussed at City Hall later today and have the backing of area councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York), but local residents are far from united in supporting it.

Photo by {a href=""}Philip Jackman{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The guidelines are the culmination of a visioning study commissioned by the City at McMahon’s request, and carried out over this past summer. Beach residents and urban designers, worried about over-development, held six meetings over five months; more than 250 people and several community organizations participated. “We had more members on our stakeholder advisory committee than Waterfront Toronto had on theirs. We had more community consultation than these new studies require, and every deadline was extended. It was intense, and we needed it to be intense,” McMahon says of the process.

The plan imposes limits on building height on Queen East between Coxwell and Victoria Park: between four and six storeys, depending on the site and the design (the top two floors of a six storey building would need to be set back so they don’t overshadow the street). Its goal is to preserve the current look and feel of the neighbourhood while allowing for some incremental growth and increase in density.

The Beaches Residents’ Association of Toronto (BRAT) isn’t so keen on the idea, however, and they’ve launched a campaign called Save Queen Street in response to the new plan. They’ve been imploring residents to contact McMahon and tell her the guidelines “are unacceptable and should not be passed until the OMB Appeal for Lick’s (1960 Queen) has been heard.” They have also been canvassing, planting lawn sign, and sending email blasts to spread the word.

BRAT has a long list of problems with the visioning study. In addition to numerous procedural concerns, they also worry about balance, and maintain the study should have been conducted by a third party. “Many local participants felt the process was very rushed, poorly advertized, and that the resulting guidelines contradict City and Provincial policy—promoting population growth without including any studies of infrastructure impacts such as traffic, transit, parking, sanitary and storm sewer capacity, schools, daycares, etc.,” they wrote in a media release late last month. McMahon, for her part, is determined to persevere, and hopes to address these concerns at community and stakeholder meetings starting at the end of this month.

The Queen Street East Visioning Study will be discussed at the Toronto and East York Community Council meeting today at City Hall. Debate is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., but it may be delayed if previous items take longer than expected.


  • Anonymous

    I don’t see it working. Leslieville’s “character” certainly isn’t being maintained.

  • Matt

    I find it very hard to believe that anywhere in Toronto thinks that 6 stories is too much. What makes the objections even more ridiculous is that it’s on a streetcar line. The NIMBYism of some people just baffles me.

  • daleth

    Yes, it’s on a streetcar line, but the streetcars are already packed and going nowhere fast because too many people are still attached to their cars. Getting in and out of the Beaches is already ridiculous.

    • Anonymous

      Hopefully someday a DRL will be somewhere nearby enough to remove some of the load on the good old street cars.

      • daleth

        The streetcars would be great if a) they weren’t so creaky and falling apart and b) the street wasn’t so jammed. When I chose this apartment, I had visions of zipping along Queen St on the 501 to downtown and beyond, but Holy Gridlock was I wrong.

  • Anonymous

    If you can’t afford a single family detached home, you’re just not the sort of person the Beach needs. You probably don’t have a Range Rover either.

    • Vashty Hawkins

      or multiple children, nannies and dogs

  • Anonymous

    Privileged Local Residents Seek to Entrench Privilege

  • guest

    I don’t see the hoopla really. Have lived in the area the vast majority of my life and see this as a good thing. I also don’t get why the neighborhood is so against it, most of these people are headed towards their twilight and may want the option of local condos to downsize. Queen street isn’t beautiful to begin with, let’s clear that up. The block this building will go on is home to several shops selling tchotchke and a parking lot which never seems to be accessible, and the “beach mall” across the street is a total eyesore

  • Thomas

    This NIMBY group should be mocked mercilessly by all media outlets. Stop portraying them as even slightly reasonable, Torontoist. They are elitist lunatics that must be steamrolled over by all elements of society.

  • Joe

    Build it! The beaches are part of this city and if you wanna live in the city you’re gonna have to get used to tall buildings. 6 stories is nothing. In fact, add a few more!

    • btg

      I tell you what – go downtown to Queen and Beverley, just west of University – on the south side is a new 4 storey building – 3 storeys with the 4th store set back far more than is the plan for the Beach.

      The only difference is that that part of Queen is an HCD, which Adam Vaughan managed to get for his part of Queen

      We should be an HCD too – and we had protection until 2002 when the planners took it away.

  • Anonymous

    A NIMBY group named BRAT? That’s right up there with when the PCs renamed themselves CRAP.

    • Anonymous

      Technically it was the Reform party that named themselves CRAP, but yeah.

    • Mark

      Fun fact: There’s a cleverly named residents’ group in the west end called Kingsway Ratepayers Against Poor Planning.

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  • Erin

    I think the residents of any area have every right to voice their concerns. The Beaches is already a beautiful area in Toronto, and has no need for a building that will only look ridiculously out of place. Not to mention the fact that it will make the already rather difficult commuting process to and from the neighborhood a hell-ish nightmare. Enough condominiums have gone up in Toronto over the past few years. Is there really any need for one that will destroy the already appealing qualities of the area? People who live in the Beaches have every right to want to maintain the characteristics of their neighborhood.

    • Anonymous

      Of course they have a right to complain, but whether their complaint is worth altering plans for is the matter at hand.

      That building may seem out of place, but the first tall building in an area always does, whether it’s an 11 storey condo among duplexes or a three storey townhouse among bungalows. Someday BRAT may be protesting a skyscraper, arguing that it doesn’t fit the 5-8 storey character of the area.

    • MostlyCivil

      “… already rather difficult commuting process”
      Seriously? You take a bus for 10 minutes to get to Woodbine subway, or you ride the streetcar for 30 minutes. The horror. But you’re right. the residents have every right to voice their concerns, and we ahve every right to make fun of you for doing so. Please continue.

      • Michael W

        To be fair, it’s never 30 minutes on the streetcar. It takes a good hour to get downtown in rush hour and frequently 80 minutes to get home due to all of the short-turning streetcars.

        • MostlyCivil

          Or it takes half the time if you take a bus to the subway. But it’s always been slow on the Queen car, so I’m not sure how some infill will make it any worse.

  • Michael W

    I live on Kenilworth and welcome the change. The lawn signs talk of preserving the small town feeling, but I can’t think of any small town I’ve lived in that has the rapid failure of stores, the citizens who rarely deign to say “hi” to anyone on the streets, or the complaints about visitors in the summer. The Beaches is an insular place that needs a breath of fresh air.

  • Luckysod

    This is Tom Jacobek back from the political grave, meddling.

  • Anonymous

    Last I heard, “Save Queen Street” was just one guy… has that changed or is it still the case?

  • Matt

    This wreaks of NIMBYism. It’s a conservative, compact design along a major commercial strip with good transportation connections.

  • Joe Clark

    While Spacer-compliant neighbourhoods like Parkdale and Kensington Market must be protected at all costs, the same protection applied a neighbourhood across town – one with a unique geography, one too far away to be familiar to Spacers – is mere “privilege” or “NIMBYism.” (Pop quiz: Is Willow east or west of Wineva?)