Tuesday, September 28, 2010


DEVELOPMENT - What does it really mean for residents?

Sitting in a Tim's coffee shop the other day, I got into a discussion of what the often mentioned topic of "Development" at debates really means, and how do we put it in words that really mean something to both voters who want to know what the real results will be and candidates who try to communicate platforms in a few punchy words that grab attention.

I realized many of us do not have the same understanding and it is one of those topics that sounds important and is a 'good' thing, but can be really messed up in practice.

So, being an internet type, I googled it:

Development: noun, 1. A significant event, occurence or change; 2. A fact, event or happening, especially one that changes a situation; 3. Act of improving by expanding or enlarging or refining; 4. A process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage, especially to a more mature or advanced stage.

SUSTAINABLE Development: meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (In other words, don't screw up the future for our children)

While searching, I also came across this little tidbit from the last City Councillor election campaign from November 4, 2006 by Matthew Blackett of Spacing: http://spacing.ca/votes/2006/11/04/giambrone-attacked-in-poster-campaign/ It talks about Adam Giambrone's then campaign manager, Kevin Beaulieu responding to this poster from an irate business owner and shows how angry businesses can get at city interference...
Another candidate for councillor in this year's election, Ana Bailao, is the subject of some controversy as in the 2003 election, only 7 of her campaign donors lived in the ward and most of them from outside were in the construction and development industry( http://www.blogto.com/city/2010/08/drinks_with_the_candidates_for_ward_18/ )

All of this begs the question:

Just what do candidates mean when they talk of development ?

Since I can only speak for myself, here is what I mean:

* Development WILL happen. It is a given. Change is what we do in our lives and in city building.

* Whether it is GOOD development or BAD development can only be decided upon by the people who have to live with that change. No expert planner, bureaucrat, politician or self-styled visionary can accurately decide what is good for others. People with lived experience outside our neighbourhoods cannot possibly know what is needed or wanted, and often can do more damage than good. This is why it is essential that early consultation happen - residents and business owners are told what is possibly going to happen, and then are given an opportunity to have significant input.

* This means the process must always include people in the area affected by the change.

In my view the kinds of development needed in ward 18 includes:

1. Maximizing the use of dormant lands and properties, like this one:

1006 College at Havelock
Abandoned since before 2003 -Yet we still have affordable housing issues and homelessness?
There are many more examples. Empty lots, land being slowwwwwly reclaimed from toxic conditions.

2. Small Business Renewal: There are sections within the ward that have been neglected for far too long. Some areas have BIA's that represent members well and are heard, others have sometimes been ignored (eg. Dundas BIA and parking). Some areas like right along College from the Dundas crossoverto Dufferin are in shoddy shape (no BIA there). We still see too many emty storefronts and they can't all be art galleries. People live in the area and need restaurants, support services and supply stores. That there are a lot of thrift stores and pawn shops speaks to the degree of low incomers and poverty in the area. Yet I worry about poor planning around GENTRIFICATION... another set of definitions:

to GENTRIFY - means making a neighbourhood conform to middle class aspirations; usually increases income for developers while decreasing family, culture and evicting low income groups; it raises the status of some at the expense of others; often starts with artists, ends with speculating developers.

3. We need to CONTROL development: This is the job of city and neighbourhood builders, which includes key roles of elected City Councillors and the Mayor. But these roles must only be the facilitators. Decisions on development directions must come from residents and business owners in the area. City bureaucrats whould contribute to the process, but not in any way direct or lead it.

These are my thoughts on DEVELOPMENT... something we should all be involved in because...