A lack of public consultation about the proposed demolition of Lawrence Heights has community members wondering what Ward 15’s council hopefuls would do to fix the situation.
Residents voiced their frustration with the consultation process surrounding the Lawrence-Allen Revitalization Project (LARP), approved by council in July, at an all-candidates meeting for the Eglinton-Lawrence city council candidates on Oct. 5.
“A lot of people were left out,” long-time resident Michael Orr said to the panel to cheers from the audience. “The city consulted people … but those living right next to Lawrence Heights were not consulted.
“A lot of people simply didn’t know about this.”
LARP aims to create a mixed-use, income diverse neighbourhood for tenants within the Lawrence Heights complex. At an estimated cost of $350 million, the plan proposes razing down existing apartment buildings to create 7,500 new low-cost units.
Josh Colle, first-time candidate and son of area MPP Mike Colle, said he plans to address safety issues for residents, as well as high levels of poverty and crime in the area.
“The status quo in Lawrence Heights is unacceptable,” he said.
Colle said, if elected, he wants to form a community panel to discuss the flaws of LARP.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘the plan’,” he said, “and I think people in this room together can work to decide on what the plan looks like.”
Ron Singer, who wore a Ford for Mayor button and is the only candidate endorsed by the mayoral front-runner, says the city can turn the existing 1,200 units in Lawrence Heights into “the best housing in Toronto” without razing down entire blocks of buildings.
As to the potential for thousands of new residents, “it’s like moving the total population of Grimsby to here. I’m totally against that.”
Former TCDSB trustee Rob Davis said he rallied against LARP from its beginning, and will continue to fight it.
“This plan does not consider the consequences of having 20,000 people move in,” he said. “We heard from our current councillor that this was a 20-year plan. (But) it’s not. It’s coming fast and furious down the pipe and you’ve got to stop it.”
But Orr wasn’t convinced by the candidates’ remedial plans.
“What I’m asking for is a very specific commitment that you will raise this particular issue about the lack of consultation,” he said, “for the neighbours living here directly south of Lawrence that will bear the brunt of this (proposed plan), until people here have been given the same consideration that neighbours on all the other sides (of LARP) have had.”