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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Laneway House Notebook (3)

From J.Treviranus, an article called Sidewalk Toronto and Why Smarter is Not Better

In our history, data and machine determinations about people have often been used to excuse inhumane decisions. Pointing to the data is used to absolve ourselves of guilt in acts that we would otherwise consider unfair. Common examples include when a government official denies a service or gives an excuse for an unreasonable application of a policy. We claim that the data doesn’t lie; that we are powerless to make exceptions.

Feb.6, 2019, email to Tony Cunha

I'm hoping you can clear up some confusion in my mind. I wrote in my Monday email to you that after we figure out the removal of the protruding chimneys, we'd meet up with you and get a plan worked out to take to the building department. The plan would cost $1500 from you, and at the meeting with George I wrote down that the city will charge us $200 to do a zoning review and $1000 to do the "building permit review."

I was talking to Ana Bailao and her assistant Brandon at the end of a park meeting tonight, and I said that as far as I can tell, I have to spend $2700 ($1500 + $1000 + $200) to get a clear indication from the city whether they will accept the 86 cm walkway width and we can go ahead with making the more detailed plans, blueprint etc.

Brandon said that's not right, that it will only cost $200 for us to get the decision.

I'm guessing that I'm right, but can you set me straight? Ana says she really wants to know.

Feb.7, 2019, from Tony Cunha

I think there’s a bit of confusion here. The numbers you mention below are actually as follows:

Zoning Certificate/Preliminary Project Review (fee to city): $200

Building Permit Review (fee to city): ~$1500

Preliminary Design package (Lanescape): $1500

To be clear, you don’t have to pay any of these fees in order to get an answer if your project would be accepted. I simply suggest taking your photos and site plan into the building services counter and seeing if they’d approve a 0.86m walkway. If yes, try to have them send you an email or something in writing that we can include with a future permit application.

Here’s how the project unfolds from there:

Phase 1 - Preliminary Design package

  • Intended to show different planning options, budget and timeline. Not intended for any review by the city
  • You select a design option to develop into drawings for city review in phase 2

Phase 2 – Design and approvals

  • Development of design scheme and submittal for zoning certificate (to confirm conformance with by-laws)
  • Design development, detailing etc
  • Drawings for permit and application – this is where the city officially signs off on the life safety issues.
  • Important to include something in writing that they deemed the 0.86m is acceptable

We definitely do not want you to pay us $1500 without knowing if this would be approved. Important thing here is to get a written confirmation that your clearance is adequate prior to doing any design work or paying anyone.

Feb.7, 2019 Lanescape life safety bulletin


Toronto’s laneways were never meant to house people. Laneways (and their abutting structures) were historically intended for carriages, early automobiles, and to support light industrial uses. Today Toronto’s low-rise urban fabric remains fundamentally unchanged. Laneways do not have fire hydrants, are rarely plowed, and provide limited width or turning clearance for large vehicles. Because of this, it is not possible for emergency services to rely on laneways for access.

1. Jane Jacobs wrote that buildings should be flexible so that cities can change with the people who live there. Garages for 1913 cars can be replaced by laneway houses.
2. Cities can add fire hydrants as more people build laneway housing.
3. Laneways can be plowed with the right dimension plow trucks.
4. Cities can gradually add shorter fire trucks of the kind that are common in European cities.
Problems can be solved with flexible approaches.

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Content last modified on January 15, 2020, at 09:52 PM EST