Relationship Woes

Look, none of us wanted to be in this arrangement. We all were more or less happy, living side by side, tossing the occasional gentle barbs at each other, sharing a police force, a perfectly adequate transit system and some other infrastructure. It wasn’t paradise but it functioned properly.

But that was then and this is now. We are stuck with each other, by god, and nothing, it seems, can rend us asunder. (Is that even possible? A rendering asunder?) Our shotgun marriage has stuck, so let’s just make the best of a bad situation and at least try to get along.

In the affluent Humber Valley Village neighbourhood, density is a dirty word.

A proposed development at the site of the Humbertown Shopping Centre has met with furious opposition from local residents, who have staked their lawns with “Save Humbertown” signs and flooded two community consultation meetings. On Thursday evening, area residents spent more than two hours in an Etobicoke high-school auditorium grilling the plaza’s owners, First Capital Realty, over what they see as an assault on their suburban lifestyle.


Humber Valley Village. Enjoy all the amenities of a big city while living in a small town feel. No apartment complexes. No green spaces you can’t call your own. No poor people. (I’ll get to that in a minute).

According to the Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association president, Niels Christensen, the ‘suburban lifestyle’ as exemplified by Humber Valley Village consists of “…single-family homes, quiet streets and low-rise buildings.” Anything else constitutes a threat. All hands on deck! The urbanists are coming! The urbanists are coming!

You know, where exactly is that contract the city signs when you buy a house and settle into a neighbourhood guaranteeing nothing’s going to change forever and ever? You bought it as is. It’s going to stay as is. Come hell or high water.

Now I get I chose to live in an area of town that was already dense. I adapted my lifestyle to accommodate to that environment. Getting around by car is a pain. So I do as little of that as possible. The streets aren’t always quiet. I can sometimes hear my neighbour’s TV through the wall of the house we share. That backyard is, what do you call it, postage stamp small.

But the area continues to get denser, bringing in more people. I can’t expect to stop that 40 story tower going up 8 blocks to the east, nor would I want to. As Joe Strummer once sang, It’s just the beat of time/the beat that must go on/If you’ve been trying for years/we ‘ready heard your song

Post-war, automobile 1st city planning and living is dead or, at least, on life support. It’s too expensive to maintain. No longer a luxury municipalities, the province or the country, ultimately, can afford. As much as some suburbanites are convinced that they pay for all the ‘nice to haves’ downtowners enjoy – subways, community centres, free swim lessons, poor people cleaning our windshields – the ugly truth is the exact opposite. We are all subsidizing the suburban, low density lifestyle.

“The population of this area, of this census tract, has declined 2 per cent in the last census, it has declined 2 per cent in the census before,” a local resident, Robert Ruggerio, told the crowd gathered at the October community consultation meeting. “And unless we have change, and unless we have new life in the neighbourhood, our neighbourhood will suffer.”

Food for thought, right?

Indigestible it seems. According to the Globe and Mail article, Mr. Ruggerio’s comments drew heckling. When he went on to say that new apartments might be the only way he could continue to afford to live in the neighbourhood, someone in the mob crowd told him to get a job. Apparently, low income earners aren’t really welcome in Humber Valley Village.

“That’s never been the demographic for that area,” the local councillor, Gloria Lindsay Luby, said.

I guess, along with increased density, traffic and noise, poor people are also an assault on the suburban lifestyle of Humber Valley Village.

Apparently, the harassment of those speaking in favour of the proposed development continued after the meeting. Ruggerio tweeted yesterday that he received a phone call and was told he should move downtown. You want density, diversity and apartment living? Move downtown. Humber Valley Village. Love It (as is) or Leave It.

But I have a better idea. If you want to live the bucolic small town life with your wide open spaces and drives to the corner store for your bags of milk, move to a bucolic small town. Take the small fortune your single family house is now worth because of the increased property values due to the growth of this city and buy your piece of mind out on a leafy lane in the countryside. This ain’t your granddaddy’s Etobicoke anymore. The rest of us are tired paying to maintain your lifestyle.

That’s what being in a relationship is all about, give and take, compromise. A decade and a half into this thing we call the megacity and I’m not quite sure what anti-development suburbanites are bringing to the table except a destructive resistance to necessary change.

scoldingly submitted by Cityslikr