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2012 Villain: Extreme NIMBYism

Nominated for: taking the fear of change to irrational heights.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Condos will destroy neighbourhoods, blot out the sun, and reduce my property values. Rapid transit lines in the middle of wide suburban streets and bike lines on busy downtown arteries will cripple my commute by minutes. Change will kill my comfortable lifestyle and bring strange new people into my community.

Those are effectively the arguments provided by the loudest, NIMBYest opponents of building and transit projects around the city. While there are many people who offer reasoned, carefully thought-out arguments for and against new construction plans, they are often drowned out by those driven by fear, innuendo, and sound bites. The result over the past year has seen ugly battles in neighbourhoods stretching from Humbertown to the Beach.

There is little space left within the city to develop the classic single-family homes that characterized Toronto’s neighbourhoods until the middle of the 20th century. To cope with an ever-increasing population, the city needs to build up. This does not mean 45-storey towers everywhere: smaller-scale projects like the proposed six-storey condo causing havoc in the Beach provide one solution. Yet, to hear the loudest opponents of that project, even a small condo will destroy the community’s character.

What these people forget is that Toronto neighbourhoods have changed before: Jarvis and Sherbourne streets were once the preserve of the ultra-wealthy, Cabbagetown was a slum, Liberty Village was industrial, and the suburbs were farmland or small settlements. Even if they benefitted from a wave of gentrification that shaped their neighbourhood into the comfortable community they know now, these people expect things to remain static. Like it or not, the “villages” they live in are part of the city and cannot stay removed from its overall infrastructure issues.

The true ugliness of the loudest NIMBYs emerges when the economic homogeneity of their neighbourhood is challenged, prompting fear of what even a slightly more economically diverse neighbourhood might mean. At one community meeting regarding Humbertown recently, one proponent of a proposed residential development was told to “get a job” when he argued it would keep area prices affordable. That kind of fear is ugly, and unfair.

In these cases all parties—tenants, homeowners, developers, designers, activists, and bureaucrats—need to put kneejerk, defensive, and reactionary responses aside and work together, to arrive solutions that benefit whole neighbourhoods in the long run. Painful as the process can be, it’s better to work the kinks out of a development proposal than obstinately block it, and better to accept that change is a healthy part of life in a healthy city than to reject even small alterations to the landscape as gross betrayals.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

The Gardiner Expressway

An eyesore that’s creating an increasingly dangerous commute.
  Breaking Condo Glass

Causing injury, closing streets, and sparking lawsuits.
  Donald Trump

Lending his name to an ugly, failing project.

The Impossible Rental Market

Vacancy rates that make renting hopeless.
  Casino Pressure

Making it hard to make a good decision.
  Bike Lane Fiascos

More angry, more congested, and less safe streets.

Cast Your Ballot


  • Thomas

    Don’t forget the Ossington wackos!

  • Anonymous

    The NIMBY’s stopped the ferris wheel fiasco. Toronto is not a world class city by any means. Most people here aren’t born here and are completely enamoured by bright lights and steel buildings. Yawn. If they want Manhattan, they can go there. The Glory of turning Toronto into a condo village is completely unreal. Queen’s Quay West is a fine example of where NIMBYism should have prevailed. It’s a complete joke brought on by clowns.

    • Anonymous

      There was never a concrete plan to build a Ferris wheel, just an idea batted around by Doug Ford and some developers. No one had to put up a NIMBY campaign (whose backyard is the Portlands?) to stop it.

      • Anonymous

        Concrete or not, it was our mayor that suggested that be put on the table. The reaction is what killed it quickly.

        • Anonymous

          It was Doug Ford who put it forward.

    • Thomas

      There’s a difference between opposing a bad idea, and opposing something because it’s close to you. Opposing a shopping mall on the waterfront is one thing.

      Saying phrases like:

      -”ruins the character of the neighbourhood”

      -”I support urban density, but not here”

      -”it will block the sun and I won’t be able to grow tomatoes”

      -”it will create traffic”

      -”it will bring too many young condo hooligans”

      These are the statements of a NIMBY.

      • Anonymous

        So you’re saying Leslieville’s 8 new buildings on a single street without any change to transit isn’t a problem that changes the character of the neighbourhood? Density? Proximity to single family homes? Increase in already bad traffic? I used to work in Liberty Village 25 years ago. It doesn’t resemble anything close to that now. It’s ugly, sterile, and contrived. The Waterfront is an embarrassment. Most new things like this are close to people in any large city. Putting up a 12 floor monstrosity 40 feet from single family homes, in place where legislation wouldn’t allow anything higher than 5 floors, is by law, a crime. Loose development is all about the money. Toronto isn’t winning any awards for its approach to development.

        • Thomas

          You sound like the worst kind of NIMBY. You are what this article is talking about! Applying for a zoning variance is now a crime? Get over yourself.

          • Anonymous

            12 floors where 5 floors are currently guarded, is not “variance”. That’s 140% over what was perceived as reasonable. Do the simple math. Welcome to Toronto. Try not to get overwhelmed.

          • Thomas


            The developer applied for a change in the zoning bylaw. City planning staff were happy with the proposal, and recommended that Council approve the rezoning. The local Councillor negotiated section 37 benefits with the developer. They came to an agreement, and Council approved the rezoning.

            To say that there was something criminal about this process is absolutely insane, and reveals you to be the type of melodramatic NIMBY that is hard to take seriously.

            You live in a nice neighbourhood. Other people want to live there too. So they build more housing. Yes, as more people move into the city, it will get busier. Welcome to Toronto. Try not to get overwhelmed.

          • Anonymous

            That application was made by the previous owners and failed to achieve that. Because, it was recognized that anything above the current height was in appropriate. As for our local councillor, Paula Fletcher, is a communist. The 37 benefits probably go to her. One of the fallouts on this is that a 10 storey building is already expected to go in next door, right beside some homes. Right beside. As in 4 feet. The current building is 40 feet from single homes.
            And you say you can’t take me seriously. You obviously have no clue about distance. You ruin neighbourhoods bringing in people that live in these sardine cans. I guess you missed that with Liberty Village and the Waterfront. I don’t take you seriously at all, because you think a city is about jamming people into these ridiculous projects. You probably like Paula Fletcher as well.

          • Hugh Jenkins

            The moment you pulled out the Communist Card is the moment you lost the aegument. Thanks for demonstrating so well why NIMBYism was nominated.

          • Anonymous

            And nowhere a list of these items that were “argued for”. Locals around Toronto get the shaft, while politicians “negotiate” their trip to Florida. Honestly, get a life. Thanks for demonstrating how small town you are.

          • Thomas

            This is from the bylaw that is linked to above:

            The conveyance, at no cost, of not less than 450 square metres of
            non-residential gross floor area to a non-profit arts and culture organization acceptable to the Executive Director, Economic Development and Culture Division or, where the conveyance is not able to be completed as contemplated on terms specified in the Section 37 Agreement, and in the alternative, the payment of a
            cash contribution in the amount of $1,150,000.00 to the City to be applied at the discretion of the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning in consultation with the Ward Councillor, that will be directed to community services and facilities or parkland/open space and or streetscape improvements in the Dundas Street and
            Carlaw Avenue community within Ward 30.

          • Anonymous

            Oh wonderful. Community services. So the locals get shafted, but the trade off is that some starving artist will be able to put their stuff on display, or that Carlaw & Dundas has fancy planters? Show me where the people that are living there, get some kind of benefit. Until then, it’s completely empty. Community services and facilities? LIke that dumbass doggie park at Gerrard & Carlaw? All of this is a farce. What’s the point of having legislation if it just gets tossed aside? Oh right, the payoffs to City Councillors. I completely forgot that the value of the City has been given to these wonderful effective Councillors like Gord Perks. What a pencil pushing swivel servant.

            Leslieville is an attraction, not because it has “lifestyle” condos. People want to live here because it’s a nice neighbourhood, before these massive buildings were here. It’s a residential neighbourhood, not Liberty Village East.