a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Oct, 2006

How did it go?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro

Well, I’ll tell you.

I had about three hours of sleep and walked into the interview heavily medicated. You know, when the instructions on the side of a package of cold medicine says not to operate heavy machinery it doesn’t really take into account (a) a studio microphone and (b) my brain. I shouldn’t use either of them when I’m getting over a cold.

Thankfully I didn’t have a coughing fit into the mic. I saved that for the long and damp bus ride home.

I talked and talked. The host was Kathleen Petty. (Last might Mark reminded me of her journalism calibre; “She’s interviewed Bill Clinton you know!” Uh, yeah, thanks hon.)

I don’t even remember what I talked about. And of course I didn’t touch on any of the the points I wanted to mention.

1) Why I am keeping track of all of this on the blog? Because people want to know. This site gets hits on this topic every day. People are looking for the information and are not finding it anywhere. Why haven’t plans been released to the public yet? What kind of say is the public going to have over the development? Is it a done deal?

I have a horrible feeling that the 20 homes slated to fill this spot will be $600,000+, each with a double garage, and be populated with DINKS (Double Income No Kids).  How exactly does that benefit Westboro? Kathleen said we’d be getting new neighbors. Yeah sure, but at what cost?

2) There’s been talk of meetings. What meetings? Who’s been at these meetings? Were they open to the public? Who is making decisions on behalf of the community?

3) The developers shouldn’t be able to do what they want, where they want. New infill homes all seem to be pushing the boundaries of space and design. At what point is the City of Ottawa going to step in and stand up for residents of Westboro?

4) At what point do we decide that our local history is worth saving?

5) Infill housing: Yes, okay, infill housing will ease up on urban sprawl. But why not tear down ugly homes that are already in a state of decay to solve that one? Why start with a gorgeous old building with actual historical value like the Maison Jeanne D’arc?

re: urban sprawl. Why not just plan those new neighborhoods better? Why do they have to look like they do… a jungle of cookie cutter homes, crescents and deadends designed to maximize the number of homes that can fit in one developed area. Why can’t new urban neighborhoods be created on the basis of pedestrian traffic instead of commuter traffic?

Gah. Let me know if you tuned in. And if you were able to glean anything worthwhile from what I said. :)


11 Responses to "How did it go?"

1 | Sarah

October 11th, 2006 at 10:01 am

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I heard your interview Andrea and was very interested! I felt you were thinking of me when you mentionned the removal of trees and in-fills pushing the boundaries and filling up the building lots. Good for you for speaking up! Maybe with the change in government we will get leaders who listen to taxpayers and don’t constantly permit variances to building codes.

2 | Dagne

October 11th, 2006 at 11:40 am

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Andrea, your blog has put you in a good position to speak up and be heard on the topic of urban development. Congratulations on your radio interview this morning; I didn’t hear it, but hope it went well.

As a fellow Westboro resident I too am concerned about the ways of developers. I’m less concerned about urban intensification – I think it’s a necessary thing for sustainable development. I think it can bring real benefits, both for people and for the environment. I keep hoping that the perils of global warming will frighten developers and communities into designing better communities and get people out of their cars.

On the Kenwood development, I think that Barry Hobin should be required to make use of the building that is already standing there. Both because of its historical value and because it’s largely a solidly made building which shouldn’t be torn down on a builder’s whim. It’s greener to make use of it.

I read in the Citizen that Hobin claims local residents were “cool” to the idea of turning the building into condominiums. I wasn’t at any meeting (which was very poorly advertised – found out about it way too late), and I can’t imagine that Westboro’s residents are that thick. Why would we ask Hobin to build 16 or 20 homes from scratch instead of making using of a local landmark building which many of us know and love? (We have visited the nuns there every Hallowe’en – how neat is that?)

I’m still trying to figure out how to get heard on all of this. I’ve written a letter to the Citizen and have some other ideas, but as ever it’s hard not to feel insignificant as an individual. Look at what Al Gore has done on global warming, yet policy in the US hasn’t changed yet – people don’t want to hear it. Having said that, individuals do need to make local efforts. Thanks for giving air time to this in your blog.

3 | Stephen

October 11th, 2006 at 12:01 pm

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Hi. Heard you this morning and I’m following this with interested. What have our candidates for mayor and city council said about this? Where do they stand on this and other development issues? Can this be made an issue for these candidates?

4 | andrea

October 11th, 2006 at 12:35 pm

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Stephen: for sure, Westboro development should be an election issue. I hope to post an article that ran in the Citizen about the Maison development … in which the author quoted the our region’s candidates Ludlington, Leadman and Smallman.

FYI – Vicky Smallman has gone on record about the proposed development on her blog.

5 | crunchy carpets

October 11th, 2006 at 1:43 pm

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Ah like Vancouver….the housing to be built for the Olympic Village will be high income only and small…as is the usual now in vancouver….

I have been fighting with city council about middle income housing. Housing for families. To stop the condo craze.

I don’t mind infill as long as it doesn’t take away from the character of the community AND helps people have affordable housing…won’t happen here.

I have been laughing at our schoolboard because they were surprised that their numbers were much lower this year than expected….have they not seen the price of houses here?

There is nothing for a family of four in Vancouver unless you have a massive double income.

Gone are all the young families to the burbs.

6 | Domestic Slackstress Kim

October 12th, 2006 at 12:14 am

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Wow. You learn something new every day. I had no idea who DINKS were. There’s an acronym for everything. There is nothing for a family of four (make that five if you are talking about me and mine) in Southern California (where I live with my two sons, husband and daughter on one income) unless you have a massive double income. It’s more fun (and easier), I think, to interview than be interviewed. That’s coming from a fellow journalist and mommy blogger.

7 | BeachMama

October 12th, 2006 at 8:09 am

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Andrea, your passion is so honorable. If only there were hundreds more like you to stand up for the buildings in each area then the City would be forced to listen.

I am double sided on this debate, I have to be. You see, I live in one of those cookie cutter houses. One that lacks character outside but inside is our home full of love and comfort. I would love to live in a funky older home complete with character from years gone by, as would my Hubby.

Actually he would prefer it. Unfortunately there are none here to move into. His father was the sixth resident to move into Barrhaven many years ago. The thing is that our comminity wasn’t built like communities like Westboro or the Glebe. They didn’t build it with the intent for families to go walking to stores. They did it so you had to drive. As of late we have been able to walk to a few places, but nothing like you have where you are.

The building Jeanne D’Arc is a beautiful building that could easily (says a girl who isn’t a builder) be turned into quite stylish condos instead of being torn down. It would benefit both the community for it’s character and the buider who should know how to turn that building into huge cash. There are so many other buildings or homes that should be torn down, you would think they would focus on one of those instead of one that is still solid and looking pretty good.

Kudos to you for standing up and making a difference.

8 | andrea

October 12th, 2006 at 10:55 am

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Thank you BeachMama, I appreciate your comment.

I don’t have anything against cookie cutter homes and especially the people who live in them. :) My beef is with the city and with the developers of those communities.

Why are those kinds of new neighborhoods planned the way they are? Because their design maximizes profit. Why can’t they be built with stores and schools within pleasant walking distance? With benches and street lights and bike paths or maybe a town square? Because it’s expensive to design a neighborhood that way. But it is possible. It’s been done elsewhere.

Developers are business people, most of whom are just in it to make a profit. My question is this: why can’t the City of Ottawa take back control of housing development and plan our city in a healthier way?

9 | DaniGirl

October 12th, 2006 at 12:30 pm

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Oh my goodness – I get a little behind in my blog reading and just *look* what happens!!

I’ve been following the Citizen’s coverage and thinking of you. Bravo on the CBC interview – sounds like it went very well.

10 | twinmomplusone

October 12th, 2006 at 7:45 pm

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kudos to you andrea for your valiant efforts

any building with architectural and/or historical relevance is worth saving or restoring, thre is enough “blah” around us

and the way developers have control over new developments has been a major pet peeve of mine for years. New urban zoning is catastrophic for the environment. People have to drive to get anywhere. Can’t even walk to a corner store to buy milk, some new neighbourhoods don’t even have parks for teh kids to run around (which they can’t do in their backyards as its the size of a postage stamp) . When my European relatives come over and see these new areas they are so perplexed as to why new houses are built so close together when there is so much room in this country. Ah, the almighty dollar!!!

11 | Chris

October 12th, 2006 at 9:10 pm

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Hi-

I’m of two minds about this. Our neighbourhood (Old Ottawa South) has had its share of this; for example, the recent demolition of St. Margaret Mary’s school to make way for luxury townhomes.

Yes, the developers are in it to make money — they’re a business, after all; that’s what they do. At least this is urban densification, rather than the car-dependent suburban sprawl that many of us despise: your future neighbours may enjoy walking to local stores as much as you do.

I don’t like the fact that these developments almost always consist of “luxury” units, but I think that’s inevitable given the market forces: high-end is a lot more lucrative for the builder, so as long as there are enough affluent buyers out there, that’s what gets built. This may still help the rest of us, though: adding new housing to the market calms the demand, and people buying those new luxury houses are then not buying (and gutting, or knocking down) the smaller, older, more affordable family houses.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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