Colonel Sam Smith Park, Toronto

IMG_2894I took this photo this morning while out walking the Newfs. It’s taken from the spit facing the yacht club docks

A brief thaw

I didn’t even need gloves out walking the Newfs this morning, a big change from last week’s cold. The ice has mostly melted out at the yacht club. I shot this brief video…

I didn’t see the snowy owls (again) but I talked to some enthusiasts. I say if you’re carrying around a lens as long as my arm on your camera, you qualify as an enthusiast.

Seen the owls?
Not today yet, saw them yesterday.
Saw the pair just up here yesterday morning.
They were out on the ice yesterday. A bit hard to see out there.
Just the ones on the docks out here.
There was one up in a tree the other day.



Shout-out to a #LongBranchTO business

Today we took some things into Silver Lion Framing (3305 Lakeshore on the South side between 27th and 25th). Corey is a pro, and a really good guy too.  His shop is a great addition to the Long Branch business community.

Brice Canyon by Martin Dean Coppinger

We’re reframing this one….

IMG_2843We bought this lovely drawing in a beautiful tramp art frame…

IMG_2845but it came to us poorly matted with sagging plastic vs glass. Corey is going to improve the matte board, replace the plastic with glass and do some minor repairs on the very fragile frame.



Long Branch has been noticed…

Blog TO has identified LongBranch & New Toronto as among the top 5 neighbourhoods on the rise in 2015. They have noticed what local residents have been seeing for some time. Developers have targeted our area in a significant way – they see gold in them-thar-hills.

It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, increased density in the form of condos along the Lakeshore thoroughfare (such as the one across from the beer store) is bound to help revitalize a long retail strip which could use a boost. At the same time, there is a lot of development pressure on the South Long Branch neighbourhoods that unchecked will be detrimental to the character of our community.

Consider that within site of our home on lower 27th Street, at least 3 properties have been snapped up by developers. One has already had a severance approved by the Ontario Municipal Board. The owner plans to build two tall, deep and narrow homes where previously there was a single modest bungalow. In spite of the fact that this developer plans to chop down several trees on the property, and erect a pair of buildings that are each 2 stories over a garage, his team managed to convince an OMB adjudicator that this development is in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood.

On the other hand, earlier this month and further up the street, the OMB rejected a proposal to sever a lot and put up a similar development. One thing we are seeing is neighbourhood residents who are increasingly organized and willing to take the time and the trouble to get involved and fight to retain the unique character of this community.

The Committee of Adjustment/Ontario Municipal Board process seems inadequate in a community undergoing significant and rapid change. Some change is inevitable, and thoughtful development can be positive. The question is how to manage it in a way that is good for the community and good for the City. How can we bring some positive planning into the equation?

Stop the car…

DSC07407We were driving south on Royal York Road in Mimico when Tuffy P called out for me to stop the car. “I love that mural – I need a picture.” The mural is on the outside of George’s Barber shop.

The Slicing and Dicing of #LongBranchTo

A post I made here, and cross-posted over to Twitter prior to the municipal elections received some renewed play today and I thought I’d add a few additional thoughts.

First, since I posted those thoughts, Mark Grimes squeaked out a victory and retained his post as Councillor, so from a political perspective, we’re in for more of the same, as the current development trend happened and continues to happen under his watch.

So, why is it a bad thing? We have an Official plan that that calls for increases in density along the thoroughfares but not in the neighbourhoods – and which (if honoured) protects the character of neighbourhoods. South Long Branch is at a critical time in its history. Our population is aging. Just on our block alone, 3 seniors sold their homes in the past year – all to developers. There are many older homes that need work, and rebuilding is not an unreasonable option.  If we allow renewal to come in the form of blind development whose primary goal is mining gold from the properties, one day we’re all going to wake up and look around and say what happened? We used to have space and trees and birds and wildlife and now it’s gone. It won’t ever come back.

I think our character neighbourhoods are worth protecting. I want to live here for many years to come. I’m not so concerned with the value of our property as I am with the quality of our community. At an OMB hearing I participated in, I watched a developer team make the argument that severing a lot, cutting down several trees and cramming a pair 3-story homes on the property wouldn’t change the character of the neighbourhood, and at the same hearing I was told my concerns were emotional. It won’t be as bad as all that.

High housing prices and low interest rates have created a perfect environment for the type of slicing and dicing we’re seeing around here. Frankly, a significant hike in interest rates would be more effective than our current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure in curtailing the trend. With rates so low, it’s been a low risk game for developers.

Meanwhile, I think it’s important for residents to weigh in and talk about the kind of community we want for the future. If you care about how your community evolves, speak up. I recognize that South Long Branch is going to evolve as many of the older residents move on. All I ask is that residents of the community have some voice in what that looks like. I don’t think it’s right that the future of our community be driven solely by lust for gold.


Mr. Developer please

An individual who recently bought multiple properties on our street approached me as I emerged from my car this afternoon. He wanted to show me drawings, plans for development of the land.

I declined. As long as you’re not applying for variances and severances, I said, I don’t need to look at your drawings. Go to town. Oh, it turns out he is applying for severances and variances. He says he wants to build one large house on one of the lots (he says he and his family will live there) and sever the other and build two homes, suitable for young professionals, he said. I see.

I don’t much like the severing of properties in our neighbourhood. It isn’t about creating affordable housing. It’s about extracting the maximum amount of wealth possible from the property at the expense of the unique character of our lakeside community. A few developers have managed to convince the Committee of Adjustment or the Ontario Municipal Board to allow this activity and the result are pairs of homes – typically two stories above a garage, running 70 or 80 feet back, crammed together on the property, tree canopy and neighbourhood character be damned. It’s very unfortunate this overbuilding has been allowed.

We moved here because it is a character neighbourhood. It’s close to the lake, and it features mostly modest homes on larger lots with loads of mature trees. The City’s Official Plan makes sense to me. Increased density should occur along the thoroughfares, not in the neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood character should be respected. Some decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board in our neighbourhood betray an extremely loose interpretation of the Official Plan in my opinion. I’m of the view that the current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure hasn’t been very successful. We need a made in Toronto solution without provincial involvement, which gives weight to the wishes of the community.

I expressed my opinion to this fellow at length. I went so far as to suggest that I hoped one morning he would awake with an epiphany, a realization that his mad plan to sever one of the lots is a bad idea for the community. Although I suspect that day will never come, I told him I will continue to try to convince him of the error of his ways. I felt a little like a tv preacher for a few minutes there.

Our part of Twenty-Seventh street is a stone’s throw from the lake. The street which follows the waterfront, Lake Prominade, is part of the Waterfront Trail. Just two streets over is Colonel Sam Smith Park. Birders come from all over the continent to Sam Smith because it is what it known as a migration trap – birds stage there before of after their trip across the lake, and it is a birders paradise indeed. I’ve seen coyotes in the neighbourhood. Not far to the west, near Marie Curtis, I’ve seen deer. I’m heard of foxes too, but I haven’t seen any yet. The character of our community is worth preserving.

I call her #6

Nothing beats holiday cookie baking with your neighbour!
Nothing beats holiday cookie baking with your neighbour!

I knew her in her 80s…. she’s now renamed herself Amazing, and I buy that hook, line and sinker.  I also call her #6.

Here we are after the Long Branch Santa Claus Parade, baking Peanut butter chocolate cookies for Christmas. We have to take a break before baking the next batch (cappucino crinkles), while Amazing licks the spoons.   With Georgie, Memphis and Gracie keeping watch. Dec. 6, 2014.


I took the dogs out for our after dinner walk this evening as usual. We headed over toward the water filtration plant on the other side of 23rd St. My plan was to walk over to the edge of the hill and see if there was anyone in the leash-free area. There are no lights there and no shelter from the cold winds and lately dog owners have been clearing out early.

The leash-free area was empty. I thought for a second I’d take the dogs down the hill and over to the path by the lake, when I saw a coyote out in the field. It was rooting around in the field and I’m guessing it was mousing. For a brief second, the coyote looked up at me, and then started moving slowly closer to the hill. I turned the dogs around and we jogged back toward the road. I’m happy to avoid any kind of encounters with our dogs and wildlife.

By the time we got to the road, the coyote had emerged at the top of the hill and was a third of the way across the field, coming toward us slowly but with some determination. We crossed 23rd and headed down Iris. Halfway to 25th, Memphis had to stop to pull out the little snowballs that build up between her paw pads. I looked back and the coyote was still in the field but only 15 or 20 feet away from the road.

The dogs were oblivious to this action. If they could smell the coyote, they showed no sign of it. Maybe the wind was in the wrong direction for that. They were only concerned that we were heading home so fast instead of completing our usual full walk. The coyote looked pretty scrawny except for its tail but it was hard to tell if it was healthy or not. This was not the first time I’ve seen coyotes in the park or the filtration plant lands – but it was the first time one followed me.

Of course there are different types of coyotes. Here is Guy Clark singing about the other kind…

Moving out the yachts

Here by the lake, it seems there are two seasons, marked by the days the yachts are hauled in from the harbour and after winter, hauled back in. I saw the cranes out there today while I was walking the dogs.