'People or parking? Pick one': Toronto housing watchdog gets city to park plans for Green P lot

After a plea from a Toronto housing activist, the city is holding off on plans to bulldoze two buildings and a single-family house to make room for a parking lot that explicitly contradicts its own affordable housing initiative. 

City had plans to bulldoze homes, businesses to build surface-level parking at Eglinton and Caledonia

Three buildings were going to be bulldozed, along with a single family home and apartments to make room for a surface-level parking lot. (HousingNowTO)

The city is holding off on plans to bulldoze three buildings to make way for a surface Green P parking lot because, as one housing advocate points out, the project explicitly contradicts the city's own affordable housing initiative. 

"I thought it was a joke," said affordable housing activist Mark Richardson after he crashed a meeting of the Toronto Parking Authority Wednesday at city hall to campaign against the plan.

Staffers at that meeting were going to vote on the $850,000 tender for the demolition of the two commercial/residential buildings on the site and a single-family home. 

But Richardson, a data analyst who launched the website in January to map the locations for Mayor John Tory's Housing Now initiative, was determined to stop them.

The Housing Now plan aims to build 40,000 affordable rental units over the next 12 years. 

Also part of the Housing Now mission is to build, "Livable communities near transit."

If constructed, the proposed parking lot at the corner of Caledonia Road and Eglinton Avenue West would have spaces for about two dozen vehicles.

The project would not only mean the loss of several apartments and a house, it would also be within 500 metres of the future Caledonia Station — the transit hub slated to open in 2021 that will service the Barrie GO Train line and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. 

"It was two, three weeks ago this item first was popped up on the agenda and we couldn't believe it," said Richardson.

It was thanks to a Google Alert that he was notified about a Toronto Parking Authority board meeting scheduled for Wednesday at city hall. 
The city purchased 2204-2212 Eglinton Avenue West in 2013. Both buildings had apartments and were going to be demolished to make room for the parking lot. (Google Street view)

Richardson figured he ought to say something before the wrecking ball came out, so he attended Wednesday's meeting with a presentation titled, People -or- Parking? Pick ONE.

"The only option was to show up and to sort of state our case with the photographs, with the maps and say if you care about housing, if you care about transit oriented development, the idea of tearing down housing viable housing near transit is insanity."

Brad Ross, the chief communications officer for the city, said the board and city manager agreed to defer the matter and consult CreateTO, the city's real estate team responsible for making decisions about whether to sell city-owned land.  

"The board wanted CreateTO's insight, this land was purchased prior to CreateTO's creation, hence the deferral," Ross told CBC Toronto in an emailed statement.  

Ford-era property purchase 

The city purchased the buildings at 2204-2212 Eglinton Avenue West in 2013 and bought the single-family home at 601 Caledonia Road two years later for $960,000. 
The parking lot was supposed to offset any on-street parking that was lost due to the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. (HousingNowTO)

According to Toronto Parking Authority documents, demolishing the home would provide "improved access as well as enhanced visibility to the new car park from Caledonia Road." 

The documents also reveal the lot was originally proposed as a means of offsetting any on-street parking that could be lost in the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. 

"It was a different mayor, a different city manager, different Toronto Parking Authority people," explained Richardson. 

"Let's look at this with fresh eyes in 2019 in the middle of a housing crisis. 

Taking into consideration the areas aging demographic he suggests the city build affordable seniors housing on the site instead. 


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