The laneways of childhood can be magical places. Even for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Published in the Toronto Star
Mon. May 7th, 2018
By Star Editorial Board
After his parents separated, Trudeau’s mother Margaret lived in the Ottawa neighbourhood of New Edinburgh, not far from Parliament Hill and 24 Sussex Dr., in a house backing onto the delights of Avon Lane. There the Trudeau boys got up to the usual youthful hijinks.
“In the lane, we’d just play for hours with the kids in the neighbourhood on bikes, on skateboards, goofing around – water-balloon fights and those sort of things,” Trudeau once told the Star.
“That lane was a perfect place to just be an ordinary kid in what was sometimes a very unordinary childhood.”
Here in Toronto there is hidden treasure of thousands of laneways constituting about 300 kilometres in which generations of young citizens found similarly perfect places to play, hang out, collect pop bottles, daydream, settle differences, tryst with first loves.
It’s hard to imagine that civic leaders – who have already spent overlong examining the dentistry of this gift horse – won’t soon muster the imagination to put those spaces to laudable and necessary new purposes.
Last week, the Toronto and East York Community Council voted to defer until early June the “Changing Lanes” report from the city’s planning department that proposes allowing construction by homeowners, on existing lots, of laneway suites to use or rent. The new structures would remain attached legally to the existing home and design guidelines would set such things as permissible height, angle of rooflines, window and balcony placement.
Getting even this far has taken some doing.
In 2006, a city report raised concerns about the complexity of implementation. Now, a dozen years on, community council has decided more study is needed. Even by city hall standards this is too cautious by half.
It should not take most of forever to resolve issues of privacy, safety, emergency access and how laneway suites receive municipal services.
Laneway housing is an idea of rich potential whose time has come.
It could provide small, but charming living spaces in a city with a housing crunch, turning what were once corridors of stables, smithies and garages into intimate and vital communities in the heart of the city.
As Paul Bedford, Toronto’s former chief planner, wrote Monday in the Star, “even small solutions are important ones.
“We must demonstrate that we are able to take an idea into implementation.”