Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Leslieviller, The Leslieville Residents Association and the Leslieville TTC Barn by the Lake

My application to join the local chat room "The Leslieviller" was approved, so this morning I jumped right in on the fooferah about the name chosen by the new neighbourhood political action group "The Leslieville Residents Association".

Not sure what all the fuss over the name is about at The Leslieviller, but many Lesvillians posting at the site don't think "The Leslieville Residents Association" represents them.

In my post there I suggested that they join - then it will. ;)

The Issues

The Leslieville Residents Association formed after a badly advertised public consultation process by the City of Toronto about the new TTC barns at Lakeshore Boulevard and Leslie Street somehow organically gathered a critical mass of citizenry. At a loud and fractious meeting on Eastern Avenue in February, many people said they had only heard about the plan six days before. People felt like the city was sneaking around behind their backs.

With 100 of the 207 new light rail street cars the city is buying set to rumble down Leslie Street after each rush hour - on their way to their sheds - area residents were wondering why they didn't get a more of a public heads up from the city on this.

A week later at a local church, a meeting took place where The Leslieville Residents Association was formed specifically to represent the community in talks with planners that might make changes to the plan. That meeting is scheduled for this week: Thursday, 6:30 - 9:00 PM, April 8th at 895 Eastern Avenue (same place as the first TTC 'open house').

TTC Notice of new public meeting (yes, pdf file)

The Divisions?

This neighbourhood is experiencing a gentrification at the present time, in no small degree because of the tearing down of the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway. Many new residents don't want some lefty group claiming to represent everyone de-railing the cities lake front renewal plan.

Perhaps they can't see the greater picture:

The Leslieville Residents Association undoubtedly includes citizens who helped stop Walmart a few years ago (Wake Up WalMart Blog). Perhaps there are some left over disagreements around the vision people have of Leslieville's future. The cities Box Store vision for Lakeshore and Leslie reflected a car centric view of city planning from the 1950's -1970's which was rejected by the neighbourhood. This vision that was very bad for Lesslieville which became a forgotten, dirty neighbourhood under the freeway. I think Leslieville Residents Association just wants to make sure the city doesn't impose another top down vision like that on the community again. Another car centric vision that resulted in a neighbourhood divided from the great lake by a noisy, stinky Gardiner Expressway.

I hope the new development is worked so that it opens up the Great Lake Ontario to the neighbourhood, a potentially magnificent lakeside community development that allows residents to walk, cycle or drive (through neighbourhood streets) down to the great parks being developed there.

This will correct a great wrong, a highway along the lake edge that divided this lake front neighbourhood from one of the largest fresh water lakes on the planet, for three generations.

Some Solutions?

It seems to me like it's standard operating procedure in the political bureaucracy and planning departments of the city to - instead of embracing the new communications tools of Web 2.0 and engaging the people - continue in the old vein that always seems to look like they're trying to sneak stuff past stakeholders while we aren't looking.

(ask any politician or bureaucrat, it is not possible for special interests to trump the peoples choice)

The inaccessible City of Toronto website is partly to blame - all the documentation of the public consultation on this case are nicely laid out there, but if you didn't know it was happening - why would you look? Everyone knows that going to the City of Toronto's website for anything requires a great investment of time - or in real English - a waste of time. It is the opposite of user friendly, it hides things really well.

The city should have used the TTC bus stop shelters in the area to advertise a brand-able set of keywords that gets you to the page at the cities website. Instead, the web page is buried inside a section called "Get Involved" (how many tens of thousand things can one 'get involved' with through City Hall I wonder?). Plus the document is titled in a very bureaucratic way - good for insiders - impossible to guess while Googling: "New Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Maintenance & Storage Facility".

How's that for keywords?

Instead I suggest "Leslieville + TTC + Barn". And you arrive at that, by using social networking tools - like Twitter or Facebook or The Leslieviller chat feature - at the beginning of the consultation process; the community will tell you what the keywords are - and they'll love you for asking!


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