The following letter was submitted to the City of Toronto. At its June 23 meeting (which was postponed), the City (as planner) was considering approving yet another substantial increase in allowable heights for Regent Park redevelopment (where the City is the developer). If approved, new Regent Park buildings along Shuter would tower over the adjacent houses in Trefann Court.
” It is very commendable that the City of Toronto, as sole owner of TCHC, is rebuilding the public housing in Regent Park; hopefully this area, located on the edges of Toronto’s downtown area, will evolve into more desirable and livable neighbourhood. Intensification which provides transitions in height from existing adjacent low rise neighbourhoods, is good.
But it is troubling that no “planning” rationale is provided by the May 27, 2009 planning report, to justify a substantial increase in height limits. Previous height limits for Regent Park were established, after extensive planning and review, only 4 years ago. So what are the new “planning” issues, to justify this increased height? The reasons given by the planner are exceedingly vague: “lessons learned from Phase 1 and changing opportunities”. One must assume that the only reason for “extra height” is “extra money” for the developer. Taller buildings allows more market-priced condo units, to provide more money to rebuild the public housing. Clearly, the City is in a conflict of interest in this application, as the city is acting as both the “planner” and the “developer”.
The planning report describes surrounding neighbourhoods; it is important to be aware of building heights in those neighbourhoods. Cabbagetown, South of Carlton and Trefann Court neighbourhoods are almost entirely 2-3 storey houses, rarely exceeding 12m in height. Newly constructed housing along Regent Park’s borders (eg. 547-567 Shuter, completed less than 2 years ago) are only 3 storeys, compatible with the city’s planning objectives stated in the former Trefann Court Part II Plan (1983): “low rise, row house character”, and 12m height limit along Shuter St.
Of the streets bounding Regent Park (Shuter, Parliament, River, Gerrard), Shuter St. is the only one which is entirely residential, and so it is especially important here to provide “a transition between areas of different intensities and scale through the use of setbacks and step backs with adjacent lower intensity neighbourhoods” (as per Feb 2009 Regent Park Planning Rationale, page 13). The 2003 zoning for Regent Park, which established a 15m height for blocks 23 and 10m for block 38 (vicinity of Shuter & Sackville), provided that appropriate and very important transition between Regent Park and its existing low-rise residential neighbourhood to the south. Allowing 20m and 22m for these blocks would be almost twice the height of existing 12m houses lining the south side of Shuter.
Please provide an appropriate transition in scale, between Regent Park and the adjacent low rise Trefann Court: maintain a 15m height limit for blocks 23 and 38 of Regent Park. “