a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Jan, 2008

Niggling thoughts about the proposed closure of Golden Ave. in Westboro

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro|Misc. life|Ottawa|Yaktivism

There’s an issue brewing here in my neighbourhood that’s really sticking in my craw. I haven’t written about it here, until now, but before I continue I want to clarify that my views are my own, and not those of my local community association of which I am a board member.

There’s a proposal on the table regarding the potential closure of a little piece of Golden Avenue. It’s one block connecting Byron Avenue and Richmond Road. Here’s a map of the area I’m talking about.

On the surface it all seems rather innocuous, and I suspect that’s part of the reason why the major media – the Citizen, the CBC – haven’t picked it up. But to me, it stinks, and we, as residents of this lovely neighbourhood, have a few reasons to pay attention to this issue as it unfolds.

There was a public consultation about the potential closure of Golden Avenue on December 5, hosted by our councillor, Christine Leadman. 

There was huge turnout, which surprised me since it was a cold and very snowy night and for many this is a very busy time of year. In fact, the room was packed. Actual estimates vary. Some say there were 200-300 people there, and that probably doesn’t include the number of people who were straining to hear from the hallway outside the room, left early, or just gave up and went back home when they saw they weren’t going to be able to get in.

I was a half-hour late, but I managed to squeeze in and get a decent view.

I learned that the proposal to close this little piece of Golden was brought forth by a small number (one? more?) residents of that street. They suggested it to Councillor Leadman as a traffic calming measure. Their primary complaint seemed to be about the number of cars that use Golden to get to Carling.  This, to me, is total nonsense. As one woman pointed out, she never uses Golden to get to Carling from Richmond because she just gets lost. This got a laugh, but it’s true. If you were to look at a map of the area you’d clearly see that Golden is a clear route to Carling. People are much more likely to take Broadview, or Roosevelt, or Churchill.

Fact: an earlier traffic study shows that Golden Avenue does not have a high enough traffic volume to require any sort of traffic calming measure.

But for some reason, Councillor Leadman took the idea and ran with it. Why? We’re all wondering, but personally I think it’s because it benefits the developers of the Westboro Exchange – a condo that is going to be built on the corner of Golden and Richmond Road.

Back to the meeting of December 5th. There were some architectural-type illustrations of what the proposed “new” view of Golden would look like. The plan is to turn it into a pedestrian thoroughfare. The view we were shown looked southward from a point on Richmond Road. We saw a tree-lined walkway with people walking to and fro.

How practical is that? It’s at the very end of the commercial part of Westboro Village. More importantly, closing the road will push traffic onto other roads, including the Roosevelt/Byron intersection, which (if you know it) is absolutely terrible and is an accident waiting to happen.

The other thing that really bothers me about this issue is this:

One of the people who attended that December 5 meeting asked everyone to raise their hands if they were against this proposal. I swear to god  80 to 85% of those in attendance raised their hands, indicating they were against it. It was clear, judging by the number of people who raised their hands, and made comments, that the majority of people did not agree with what was being presented.

Here’s  part of an email I wrote to the Councillor after that meeting:

“I-m wondering what is going to happen next in this process, especially since the vast majority of the people who attended the consultation are vehemently against this proposal.
 
I’m wondering why this continues to be an issue. Why is it not dead in the water?
 
The proposal would benefit very few people and have a negative impact on the rest of the neighbourhood. The proposal does not respect the desires of the larger community. Closing that stretch of Golden would alter traffic patterns in a negative way, forcing traffic onto neighbouring roads.”

In response, she wrote that the majority of residents that were present “might represent one building,” and that she does “not consider this to be a vast majority or representative of the community at large.”

I’ll tell you, the majority of residents were definitely not from one building. And it was very clear that the vast majority were against the proposal to close Golden. One has to assume that those who came out and spoke out do represent the interests of the community. That’s also how elections work, don’t they?

What wasn’t shown during the public consultation was a site plan of what they’re really trying to do. This document was created in October 2007 but was but was neither provided to residents in advance of the public consultation, nor at the public consultation on December 5. The drawing was obtained from city planning staff upon specific request by a neighbour.

Here is a PDF copy of it.

So. According to this plan, a large part of city owned land, including a slice off a piece of Byron Tramway Park, would be sold to the developers of the Westboro Exchange to build a ramp that leads to the condo’s underground parking. But we are told that the closing of Golden is a traffic calming measure for a street that doesn’t need what is essentially the most severe traffic calming measure there is. That doesn’t fly with me.

This, taken from another email to the councillor, written by a neighbour who lives on Kenwood:

“Besides a few residents on Golden, the chief beneficiary of your proposal to close Golden and appropriate public land appears to be the developer/ owner of the site. I am not opposed to re-development, but developers in Westboro hardly need financial incentives, development charges waived, or hand-outs from the public purse. If parking and access cannot be managed within the site, then the developers should be required to scale back this oversize development.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

It’s so frustrating. I want to be represented in a fair and transparent way by my elected Councillor, but it can’t happen when business interests come before those of the majority of people who live here.

What’s going to happen next? No one knows, but we’ve been told to sit tight and wait.


14 Responses to "Niggling thoughts about the proposed closure of Golden Ave. in Westboro"

1 | Jean-Philippe Daigle

January 6th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

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Hmm, I live in an apartment at Golden/Ravenhill and wasn’t too aware of this issue, but it definitely sounds rotten, like the Westboro Exchange developers are somehow pushing the city around.

I’m not too thrilled about the construction of a condo building there either – my kitchen and living room look out over the park at Golden/Ravenhill towards Richmond. When they build these new condos, I’ll have a delightful view of… condo dwellers’ rear balconies and BBQs?

2 | Marla

January 6th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

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Don’t wait – see if any media outlets will help drum up more information or help to create action. That happened with the Matador here (I’ll send you the links). If your local paper has a Homes section with a critic like our Christopher Hume, contact him. It’s not what’s actually done that’s the story – it’s the lack of transparency. But it might help. It’s helping our own neighbourhood in our fight against a big box development.

3 | Miss Vicky

January 7th, 2008 at 10:33 am

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I have blogged the issue over at my place; hopefully this will generate more attention.

4 | David Reevely

January 7th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

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I asked Leadman what was going on this morning. The key part of her answer is that the map is outdated, reflecting a proposal for an entrance to an underground parking garage that’s no longer current. The actual plan the Westboro Station developers filed with the city has the garage opening on Byron Avenue to the south, she says.

Leadman told me she still hopes that block of Golden Avenue can be closed to add more park space adjacent to the Westboro Station building and create a more pleasant pedestrian path between Richmond Road and the neighbourhood to the south, but it’s far from a done deal.

Here’s the councillor’s reply to me in full, with my emphasis added:

Dear Mr. Reevely,
Thank you for your email. I am very familiar with the fuss and I will give you the history. It may not be as brief but will try to make it.

Westboro Station had its application approved through the Committee of Adjustments almost two years ago. Residents on Golden approached the developer to consider looking at closing Golden Avenue as part of the development. Nothing happened as the developer did not move to build right away. After the election I was approached by the same residents. Brought the developer and residents together to discuss the potential (at the developers expense as the City had no money). After months of bringing all the departments together to come up with an agreement the first concept came forward with the access to the building from Richmond Avenue (preferred by staff over the entrance off Byron and in keeping with the CDP and development along Richmond Road) which would entail an easement in the tramway area. Golden Avenue would be closed off and a pedestrian walkway created and the ramp area covered over the top. From staff perspective it would keep traffic on the arterial roadway, Richmond Road, create a linkage between the communities from a pedestrian,cycling perspective and reduce cut-through traffic in the residential community as a result of the high level of intensification.

This was the first concept which was brought forward to the public for their opinions. Unfortunately, there was a lot of mis information circulated prior to the actual meeting which needed to be dispelled and continues to be problematic. What we took from the meeting were concerns such as the easement, more traffic on Richmond Road, cut through cut off, resident on Golden not able to drive straight down Golden to Richmond Road as well as the potential alternate patterns that people will choose.

These are now being considered although the cut through concern falls short on the list. The developer has since agreed that the egress can stay on Byron not requiring any easement (their site plan has been filed with the egress on Byron), they would still be prepared to assume the cost of the closure of Golden Avenue which would only see the tramway greenway extended and Golden between Byron and Richmond as a pedestrian crossing. The impacts of the closure must also be considered in the overall traffic management. The study for the McKellar, Highland and Westboro area has been completed. We will be able to use these statistics to determine the flow and potential leakage into the community.

In the end, if we cannot resolve all the key problems related with the conceptual plan of the closure it will not go forward. That being said, in light of all the development particularly at this corner I viewed the initial idea from the residents as a benefit to the community overall.

If there is any other discussion you would like to have on this I would be more than happy to talk with you on it. My cell number is [cut].

Regards,
Christine Leadman

So now that’s on the record.

5 | andrea

January 7th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

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Thank you David… we appreciate the info!

6 | Don Christie

January 7th, 2008 at 5:38 pm

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I’m still open on this issue, but I’d like to ask those opposed a couple of questions.

1) Why is it so bad to have the entrance for the exchange off Richmond? Personally, it seems to me it would be better to have the “extra” traffic on Richmond rather than an awkward driveway off Byron.

2) What are the detailed results of the traffic study? What does it show? i.e. will traffic become worse on Roosevelt if Golden is closed?

7 | Miss Vicky

January 7th, 2008 at 11:39 pm

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David – thanks for that!

8 | an

January 9th, 2008 at 11:04 am

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There are too many NIMBY’s in westboro who fear any sort of change. How many people protested the superstore (and now shop there!).

As far as the proposal goes, the Bourk family owns that whole block, Westboro Station is the first phase. There will be more development to come. If I lived on Byron (or any road that feeds to byron), I wouldn’t want the main acess there. Richmond seems logical.

9 | andrea

January 9th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

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I think most people don’t fear change… they do smart change. There is a process here, and it’s not being followed. Roads shouldn’t be closed on the whim of a small group of people. First and foremost, there needs to be a traffic study. And I’m willing to bet that any traffic study would find that closing that bit of Golden would just push the traffic onto Roosevelt and Broadview.

This proposal would benefit very few people. So what’s the point?

10 | Carl

January 9th, 2008 at 7:39 pm

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I actually like the idea of the extra greenspace and a mostly hidden driveway that goes to the arterial road — Richmond — and not to Byron.
However, that’s only if the project were in a vacuum and if it didn’t have a negative impact on the neighbouring streets. And the jury’s still out on that.
I’m with Andrea on the big issues of transparency and seeing what the traffic study says. If the neighbouring streets get the overflow traffic, it would be hard to support this plan. And my condition for allowing Golden’s closure would be a safe and attractive redesign of the intersection of Roosevelt and Byron — BEFORE Golden is closed.

11 | Bonnie

January 10th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

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I don’t think that the decision is made “on the whim” as some are making it out to be… In fact, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion and time being spent on this issue alone. Therefore, it would not be accurate to paint the parties involved as impulsive and motivated with individual agendas… Unless there is evidence of such, of course!

The double edge sword strikes again… If the developers are successful in a quick closer of Golden, then it’s impulsive and rash. If they’re slow and methodical, then it’s time consuming and a waste of money on studies. I think everyone’s taking the right steps to ensure what’s best. Either way, sounds like an interesting proposal to me!

Remember, most people will only take time out of their day to complain. Otherwise, they’re content and wouldn’t want to take time out of their day to argue about a street closure. If this occurred in Hunt Club, there

12 | Robert

January 14th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

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The reason you conveyed above, Andrea, for the road closing – as a form of traffic calming – is inconsistent with Christines version of events. Fortunately, Christine calls it traffic anagement. So where do the two versions coincide?

Road closures, signalisation and similar features are forms of traffic control (not really even management) – quite different from traffic calming.

I was part of the Kirkwood Byron traffic calming project years ago. Given your comments Andrea, I suspect a traffic calming plan for your neighbourhood, preferrably in advance of this proposal moving forward, might serve your concerns, and identify additional solutions to what is being proposed. If traffic calming is indeed what this group of residents really want, it seems to me everyone is on the same wavelength.

However, I would be suspicious of the political/development issues. It’s a much more common practice than most people realise. Try reading “Bigger not Better” by Eben Fodor. Rather conspiratorial, but I’m discovering more and more truth as time progresses.

13 | Bradford

February 5th, 2008 at 10:38 am

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It’s painfully obvious as a resident that the traffic “calming” initiative on Kirkwood is a complete failure. Don’t make the same arrogant mistake. The Byron, Golden, Richmond and Roosevelt issues require bonified unbiased professionals to imput on traffic strategies and advise scientifically at an equally shared expense to the elected officials, community and developers. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is people. Also, someone please recognize the benefits of the increased green space not just at the Bourk’s site but in other developed and to be developed areas of Westboro. Everyone read the CDP.

14 | Alex

February 24th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

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I agree completely with Andrea. I live in the Exchange building (420 Berkley), and that little street on Golden between Richmond and Byron is a great, quick way to access Byron from Richmond … I use it all the time.

I wonder if one possible motive for closing the road is so that the Westboro Station condo being put up can extend further to the West.

Thanks Andrea for posting all this information! I meant to go to that meeting, by the way, but at the last minute something came up and I couldn’t go. But certainly my intent had been to register my dissaproval of the plan.

I hope it’s true that the parking ingress/egress on Richmond for Westboro Station is nixed. That’s a terrible idea, and would really (I think) slow down traffic.

By the way, “The Exchange” is the name of the existing building (in which I live) whose address is 420 Berkley. The “Westboro Station” is (I believe) the name for the new condo building now being built across the street from it.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. 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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