Street Drama on Lansdowne

   29 May 2007, terribly early in the morning

The excitement never ceases in my neighbourhood. If you have driven up Lansdowne over the past week, no doubt you’ve noticed the sea of yellow lawn signs that now sit in front of what feels like every house on the road. These yellow, Giambrone Don’t Narrow Lansdowne, signs are accompanied in some cases by hand written placards — all in the same hand writing, mind you — with messages to Miller and Giambrone. This is all the work of the newly formed Toronto Lansdowne Residents’ Association (TLRA).

Adam Giambrone, my city councilor and Shima’s not-so secret crush, wants to narrow Lansdowne, removing some street parking in order to widen the sidewalk and “green” up the area. He has said when he did consultations on this only 20% of those polled didn’t like the idea. The TLRA is all, “consultations my ass.” There are lots of issues to get fired up about in my neighbourhood, so I am surprised to find that street parking is the one that has apparently galvanized all of Lansdowne. I emailed Sam Galati, the man behind the group, and he is certainly passionate about his cause cause célèbre.

The Star’s coverage of this story struck me as a bit one-sided. They give Giambrone a line to say he did consult his constituents, but spend the rest of the article talking to Sam Galati, and firemen who are worried about driving up a narrower Lansdowne. The question of how many people are in the TLRA and how much support they have on the road is never raised or addressed. The Star takes Galati’s word on the fact that the residents don’t want to street narrowed — which may be the case, but you know, reporters should probably do a little digging and verify claims themselves.

The stretch of Lansdowne that Giambrone wants to narrow is from Bloor to College. The stretch below this was apparently narrowed some time ago:

The narrowing of Lansdowne south of the rail overpass was one of the best things that ever happened. It tamed the traffic in a school zone and added green to what was a 4 lane highway. It made the crosswalk safer as well for all residents. Narrowing it in the north would be great as well. I pass Lansdowne every day and daytime parking does not seem to be a problem, overnight parking I have no idea. The fire response issue is a redherring because fire trucks have to go up narrow street as a rule not an exception and since two lanes of Lansdowne are parking anyway as it is, how will this narrowing actually make any difference? — Scott commenting over at Spacing

Lansdowne ends at Queen; it sort-of becomes Jameson, which is a tiny two-lane road that leads to the Gardiner. Lansdowne has never struck me as congested, though I’ve never had to drive down it during rush-hour. It is a residential street, so the extra side-walk space would really only serve to improve the aesthetics of the area. As for street parking, the “facts” I found online are:

1. parking is drastically underused during the day and will still be 50% under capacity after the reductions.
2. Traffic peaks are predominantly downtown office workers, not residents
3. Overnight parking permits number 59. There will be 110 overnight spots after the reductions.
4. No new traffic lights and improvements in pedestrian lighting
Peiro commenting over at BlogTO

Whether this is actually the case, or whether this is just some dude talking smack online, I’m trying to determine.

As of right now, I’m of the opinion the changes will be for the best. This area needs to be cleaned up. Compared to the stretches of Bloor to the West, where I used to live, Lansdowne and Bloor has an old, ugly, broken feel to it. I’m all for trying to change that. I do think this should be done with improvements to the laneways that run behind the homes on the stretch. This may have the added benefit of making them safer. Shima is of the opinion that the road shouldn’t be narrowed. I don’t remember her arguments exactly, but I think it had to do with her loving SUVs.

Update: More information from Adam’s office.

 

Comments

  1. I don’t love SUVs. I’m not impressed Ram.

    I think the money can be used elsewhere…. Have you seen how ugly bloor street east/west of lansdowne is? But on the other hand if it addresses the intersection at Bloor and Lansdowne than I’m all for it. That intersection is scary to cross.. specially at night.

  2. I know you don’t love SUVs, I just like bugging you. There was a big discussion about this on the Dufferin Grove mailing list. It’s a shame these listservs aren’t public.

  3. Dear Blog writer,
    This is Sam Galati of the Toronto Lansdowne Residents’ Association. You say that the Star article of May 17/07 is one sided against Councillor Giambrone. You should be aware that a previous story they did on April 19 completely dismissed claims by residents that consultation had been lacking on this issue. I will also point out that the Star article of May 17 makes no mention that we have approached the City’s integrity commissioner regarding the lack of evidence we see concerning the claim that a door to door survey was ever done on this issue.

    I agree with you that there are many issues that need to be dealt with in this community. But the key way to addressing those issues will be in encouraging more people to make a positive difference in their community.
    For that you need people who are engaged — rather than made to feel powerless and cut off from all decisionmaking about the community around them. The lack of consultation around the Lansdowne road changes has aggravated the sense of alienation and powerlessness that many people have had about their community for far too long. Maybe you have not made the connection between the conditions at Bloor and Lansdowne and the lack of consultation that has occurred so far on this issue. But I can assure you that many people have. It is starting to hit them right between the eyes that part of the reason we have Bloor and Lansdowne is because we have a community that for a long time has felt so cut off, excluded and shut out from the decision making process. When people are made to feel shut out of the process, they are not likely to participate in effecting change. Finally, people are saying that they are no longer willing to be treated like 2nd class citizens just because the are is home primarily to immigrant, working class residents, many of whom less than fluent in English. The first step in effecting change is developing a sense of self respect.

    The lack of consultation that has taken place here with respect to the City’s road plan would just not be tolerated in other areas of the city. It’s interesting to note that the Dufferin Grove people had 2 meetings regarding a public toilet — which is more than what Lansdowne residents got for a project that will substantially change the street. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? It does to me and to others here.

    That is why I believe consultation on this road issue is critical.

    Readers might want to visit our website at torontolansdowne@googlepages.com .

    Also, here’s some more background:
    Readers should also know that our Association has filed filed a claim with the City of Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner regarding reported claims that he did a door to door survey on this issue. We have not seen any evidence that such a survey took place. Also, even if one grants that a door to door survey was done (and we don’t see evidence that it was done), we have not had any answer regarding how the Councillor was able to take into account the views of residents who are not fluent in English (and there are many on our street).

    Whatever outsiders may think of the City’s plans for Lansdowne, people on the street are angry because Councillor Giambrone has backtracked on a written pledge he made to constituents to consult the community on this issue. If this were to happen in other areas, people would be more than a little upset. Just because this happens to be a predominantly working-class, immigrant community doesn’t mean that we have to tolerate this kind of treatment by our local elected official. We are not second class citizens – like residents in other areas of the City, we believe that decisions that affect us should be made in a way that is transparent and adheres to principals of local democracy.

    For almost a year now, Lansdowne residents have been expressing their concerns about the City’s proposed changes for this road between Bloor and College. Many are concerned that the plan will create more traffic congestion (and pollution), disadvantage seniors and disabled residents, as well as members living in extended family units who rely on street parking. We’re also concerned that narrowing the street will make it more difficult for emergency vehicles to service this stretch of road – a concern the City’s Fire department shares. On June 29/06, a petition with the names of over 300 people opposed to this plan was forwarded to Councillor Giambrone’s office. Residents were assured that the Councillor would respond in two weeks – which turned into four weeks, then two months and still no response.

    Then, on September 27/06, the Councillor sent residents a letter saying there would be opportunities for community consultation in 2007. We also had an email from the Mayor’s office saying they were assured by the Councillor that meetings on this issue would be held after the election. Flash forward to April/07, when we inadvertently learned that the construction tender on the project has been issued and the plan has been rushed through for Council’s approval at its April 23rd meeting. So much for community consultation. Residents asked that Council send this item back to committee until the Councillor had made good on his written pledge to consult the community. The request was denied. As a member of the Toronto Lansdowne Residents’ Association, I’d like to point out that we first became aware of the Councillor’s claims that he surveyed residents on this street on this issue in a story that appeared in the April 19/07 issue of the Toronto Star. The Star’s story said the Councillor referenced this survey in response to complaints by residents that they had not been consulted.

    We were very surprised to learn about this door to door survey because we were certainly not aware of anyone who could recollect the Councillor coming to their door to ask their opinion. We asked the Councillor’s office to share with us some written analysis of this survey – we were told it couldn’t be shared. So, we decided to do our own survey of the 200 or so properties on this stretch of road. We started on May 5th with a team of people who collectively are able to speak in English, Portuguese, Vietnames, Spanish etc. since not all residents are fluent in English. To date, we have spoken to representatives of 182 households/properties, and not a single respondent has acknowledged being surveyed by Councillor Giambrone or his representative on this issue. Virtually all the respondents we spoke to have signed off on their survey statement. Many respondents acknowledged that Councillor Giambrone canvassed at their door during the 2006 Municipal Election campaign. However, respondents stated that if the issue regarding the road changes was discussed while the Councillor was canvassing at their door, it was because the issue was raised by the resident. Several respondents who said they discussed the proposed road changes with the Councillor when he was canvassing at their door said that the Councillor told them that he was finding that more residents supported the City’s plan than opposed it. Many of these respondents said they told the Councillor that his statements were not consistent with their experience. Also, several respondents said that they would have liked to discuss the proposed road changes when the Councillor canvassed at their door – but were unable to do so because of language barrier issues. In all, 149 of the 184 respondents said their household opposed the City’s plan.

    That people on the street are unhappy with the plan is abundantly clear from the number of protest signs now dotting this stretch of road. If there is evidence that the Councillor has done a door to door survey of residents here concerning this issue, we’d like to see it. In the mean time, we are asking that Council reconsider the circumstances of its decision on this matter.

    Sam Galati

  4. Longest comment ever: damn!

  5. The city’s own report mentions that while the “renewal” will allegedly keep traffic at half the street’s capacity, it will definitely increase congestion and slowdowns on Lansdowne. The temptation to use neighbouring streets like St. Clarens as a short cut will be strong. This outcome has been totally ignored in the plan. Residents on St. Clarens and other area streets were not informed of the plan and only learned about it from TLRA members.

    As a St. Clarens resident, having this plan rammed through without consultation and without concern for the safety of my son and family is unacceptable.

    There may be good points about it (I ride a bike, I’m all for greening the city) but having Giambrone act like he knows what’s good for me – and then expecting me to keep quiet – is fundamentally wrong.

  6. Dear Blog writer,
    Your personal blog does not reflect my views in the light with which I wish it to. As a result, I feel compelled to write an exorbitantly long comment to push my views under the veil of a rebuttal to the points brought up in your blog post.

    To do this, I have constructed a small section at the top of my comment to personalize the message to your post so that you do not realize what I am doing. To save time, since I am doing this to as many blogs as I can find using google to search for ‘lansdowne’, I will then copy paste the majority of my comment from a pre-written script I have created to aid in my conquest for ‘keeping lansdowne the crappy way it is because I feel it has character and I don’t like change’.

    In this pre-written script, I have conveniently included links to my cause’s web page. To add to this post’s legitimacy, I have included
    facts seemingly pulled out of thin air with no citations or sources of information but you’ll have to just take my word for it because hey, I’m not a political figure or anything so why would I lie to you? For your benefit, I have included many uses of faux qualifiers, such as ‘many’ and ‘several’. Please be satisfied by this polite message.

    While you’re at it. I hope this public service I am doing will help to increase my public exposure and aid in my career as a real estate agent. Because when people want to move out of this neighborhood after it gets ‘worse’ they’re going to want me to help sell their houses. BOOYAKASHA.

  7. Gordon Ker,
    You are entitled to think that people have ulterior motives. Nothing I say will likely stop you or others in thinking what you want to think.

    However, the issue with Lansdowne has become whether this community is entitled to the same level of consultation as say Dufferin Grove or other parts of the City. Last year, two public meetings were held with respect to a public toiled being installed in their local park. Residents here are asking why they haven’t even seen this much consultation with respect to a major overhaul of their street, a project that will come in at close to $2 million.

    You may be want to disagree with how residents feel about the changes the City has approved. But what right do you or others have to suggest that they are not entitled to sound the alarm when they see themselves being treated like second class citizens.

    As I said above, this incident has touched a nerve with people regarding the patronizing treatment that they have often received from local politicians — and from certain members of the public who think consultation is only for those who agree with them.

  8. Sam Galati,
    You are entitled to believe that the project will come in at close to $2 million. Nothing I say will likely stop you or others in thinking what you want to think because I think you are arrogant for not falling into line behind my movement and wish to imply that your opinion is immovable. These small measures I use in my writing pattern allow me to make such statements in subdued manners which easily pass by undetected and give me small boost in confidence and self esteem.

    However, the issue with my post has become whether this conversation is entitled to the same level of citation and facts as other discussions. It has been stated by Kevin Beaulieu, documented by Mr. Funkaoshi here as well as stated on the web page of Mr. Giambrone here that due to maintenance related construction, the cost of the ‘narrowing’ of the road will be at no additional cost to taxpayers.

    You may want to disagree with how I feel about the actual cost of this renewal plan as reported by the councilor, but what right do you have to suggest that they are not entitled to reporting the estimated plan of the renewal with any accuracy?

    With regards to your parks and toilets, please be advised that a street is not a toilet, although many dogs think otherwise.

    As I have said above, I will now try to reinforce my arguments by using general references such as ‘people’ and the non-specific ‘members of the public’ without actually using any names of cet ‘people’ or identifying these ‘members of the public’ to add a feeling of legitimacy to my arguments hereby preceding this section of my long winded comment.

    The renewal plan is free.
    Modifying a street isn’t only about the people living there. It’s about the entire ward.
    Permit parking for local residents will increase after the renewal project.
    There is no legal obligation for them to even consult the ‘neighborhood’.
    If you find the councilor is lying to you, don’t vote for him next time.
    You can keep this up and get enough people behind your case such that your aspirations of a life in politics may come true and maybe you can run for councilor next time… AND WIN! ZOMG! DREAM COME TRUE!

  9. Gordon Ker,

    You really are quite the wit.

    It is great that you hold what is stated by Councillor Giambrone in such high regard. I do too as do my neighbors. That’s why we are waiting for him to make good on the commitment he made regarding further community consultation in 2007. This commitment was contained in a letter dated September 27/06 that he sent to residents. You may not like that I and others keep harping on this point. But then we do hold the Councillor’s words in high regard and we expect him to follow through on what he says.

    Regarding your comment that I often refer vaguely to the “people” on the street, perhaps you would like a list of who I mean, along with their phone numbers. In any case, if you were on hand at the Portugal Day Parade just a few days ago, you would have been able to meet some of these people for yourself. And I’m sure that even you would agree that these were real flesh and blood individuals rather than some chimera that I have conjured up through my words.

    The renewal plan is free? You might want to look in the City’s report to see that there are actual dollar figures associated to this plan. In any case, the cost isn’t the issue. The issue is the level of consultation that took place. I don’t have any political aspirations but it does disturb me when I feel I am seeing that people’s concerns are being ignored. You are entitled to denigrate me all you want short of making libellous comments. If that’s what makes you happy, so be it. But the fact that you are making personal attacks rather than countering what is said says quite a bit.

    PS. I agree with you that a street is not a toilet, however, more than a few people here feel they are being cra@#$ed on by the City.

  10. If you look at the Citys agenda for the day this plan was approved you will see that the plan carries a price tag of 1.7 million dollars.
    Gordon, I’ll let you figure out exactly where to find that on the Citys web page so you can have something to gripe about, but that is a FACT and it is not pulled out of thin air.
    You make a good point that the street project is about the entire ward. I agree and that makes me wonder even more why people didnt know about this before it was a done deal.
    I don’t like it when my elected representatives try to build their images by very publicy claiming to be involved and consultative with their constituents when in fact (yes i said the word fact) the opposite is true.
    Well unless its a toilet we’re talking about.
    Or when my elected representative leaves his ‘consultation’ on such a major issue to be done during the door to door chit chat that takes place during his election campaign where the subject has a chance of being brought up when he gets to a door where people are home and where they speak English and thats what the resident mentions.
    This type of person is not someone I admire or want making decisions on my behalf. In case you want to go looking for my ulterior motive, I’ll spare you the trouble. I want people to become aware that this type of action is the norm for this person not the exception so they can base their opinions of him on the full picture, not just the squeaky clean PR version that he wants to present.
    And no Gordon, I dont want his job in case you were wondering. I do however want someone with integrity in his job.

  11. To the first commenter:

    The city needs to reconstruct Lansdowne, that’s going to happen either way. It is cheap to add other features of taking out some parking, adding a boulevard and widening sidewalks since they are already ripping up the road.

    It’s not as if all the money spent on this could be used on some other road because it might be in greater need.

  12. Hi Herb, Yes Landowne has to be fixed up, but by your own recent public admission when they started cutting down 35 yr old trees and you chained yourself to one, there clearly wasn’t public consultation on the matter. Living on St. Clarens I definitely don’t want to see the excess traffic on my street, so why weren’t we consulted. If this proposal goes through then I feel our street should be converted southbound so anyone going northbound will use Brock or Dufferin… It would look good for the Dufferin Grove residents to have another 9K going up Dufferin and adding smog and pollution to their neighbourhood.

  13. all the words in that blog was crap

  14. All the words in that blog were crap.

    Thanks for the insight Joe. You've convinced me I was totally wrong about this whole issue.

Don't be shy, you can comment too!

 
Some things to keep in mind: You can style comments using Textile. In particular, *text* will get turned into text and _text_ will get turned into text. You can post a link using the command "linktext":link, so something like "google":http://www.google.com will get turned in to google. I may erase off-topic comments, or edit poorly formatted comments; I do this very rarely.