Couple being pushed out of home vows 'they'll have to take us out in handcuffs'
High Park renters being told to leave to make way for new developments
A bitter fight is brewing around a proposal for seven new high-rise towers in the High Park neighbourhood.
Paddy and Stan Bateman have been renting the same two-bedroom, 1,450-square-foot apartment for 35 years. They say theirs is one of three ground-floor units in a 24-storey building that developers hope to turn into a grocery store.
This could be a much-needed amenity if two building proposals adding 1,800 units are approved.
But Stan Bateman says this is not about affordable housing.
It's a "money thing."
"I'm not a guy who goes around on a white horse trying to fight people off, I'm a guy who wants to stay in our home," said Bateman in an interview with CBC Toronto.
He said they have spent "well over" $60,000 on renovations to their unit over the years, and that they are intent on finishing their life out in the same home in which their 26-year-old son was born.
"They'll have to take us out in handcuffs."
The community fights back
The High Park Community Alliance, a group fighting against the development, is raising money to hire a lawyer and a planning expert to suggest what they would consider a more reasonable development.
"We don't feel there should be no development — just not this amount of it," the alliance's spokesperson Cathy Brown said.
"It's not NIMBYism but livability."
The development proposals come from Minto and GWL Realty, and both are at least four years away. Minto's application to the city late last year includes 37 three-storey townhouses, one 33-storey tower, one 29-storey tower, an eight-storey podium and a new two-storey amenity pavilion, while GWL Realty's application includes a 39-storey tower, a 34-storey tower, a 29-storey tower, and an eight-storey tower.
Brown's group is concerned about the impact on city infrastructure this development would have. From schools to sewers to traffic, Brown said the area is already bursting at the seams.
Keele Street Junior Public School, one of the elementary schools that would be affected by the population growth, was already operating at 54 per cent over capacity in 2014. By 2019, the TDSB projects that figure will jump to 75 per cent.
'Successful places are congested places'
City planning expert Sean Hertel used to live in the area and said he understands why this change is inspiring a lot of fear.
"I understand why they're freaked out. I was a little surprised at the magnitude of the project as well," he said.
However, Hertel disagrees with the way the residents are going about dealing with their concerns.
"The community trying to protect itself also destroyed a community a long time ago," said Hertel, noting the irony that many of the objectors wouldn't even be living in the area if it weren't for the "towers in the park" movement in the '60s and '70s that encouraged density around green spaces.
Hertel said the city can take the strain on its infrastructure and, in fact, that can be a sign of success.
"No one wants to visit a city without congestion. Honking horns, a cacophony of transit, the excitement and vibrancy of things going on," he said. "Successful places are congested places."
Michelle German, the senior manager of policy and partnerships at Evergreen, a not-for-profit that focuses on environmentally-friendly city planning, says she believes the protesters' concerns are valid.
But instead of stopping the development, she said it should be seen as an opportunity to look at how population growth can benefit the community.
"This is the new normal. This issue is a microcosm of what is happening all over the city. It's a leverage point to say, 'We need this, we're trying to grow up and meet the needs of a growing city,'" German said.
German estimates that the region will grow by 100,000 people every year for the next 30 years, with 80 per cent of those people settling in the GTA.
Proposal still under review
Sarah Henstock, a city planning manager who works within the High Park area, said the two proposals are still under review. The infrastructure of the neighbourhood is under a microscope with two studies testing the potential for redevelopment.
"We don't look at [the development proposal] as, 'How do we stop this or how do we support it.' We look at it in the context of the studies," said Henstock.
She said the city welcomes any input and concerns but can't speak directly to the Batemans' situation.
Coun. Sarah Doucette's advice for the couple is to wait.
"Don't sign anything. We are still in an early process and we will work with the residents to do everything we can to help," she said.
Doucette said the best possible outcome is that they won't have to move, but if they do the Bateman's will get support to find a comparable unit. She admits finding a 1,450-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment will be difficult.
"We'll see what we can do."
The Batemans have not hired a lawyer yet but they are determined to do whatever it takes to stay in their home.
Stan Bateman said he and his wife Paddy feel for a young couple that moved into a rental beside theirs a year ago and just had twin girls. Bateman said it wasn't ethical of the owners to rent to them knowing they will be moved out soon.
"I know money is important. But along with money should come respect."
- In a previous version of this story it was written that the Batemans lived in a townhouse. In fact, they live in the ground-floor unit of a 24-storey apartment building.Jul 05, 2017 3:05 PM ET
With files from Lauren Pelley