Building housing on flood plains another sign of growing inequality

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A woman gets back into her flooded car on the Toronto Indy course on Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto on July 8, 2013. Housing developers are building housing on known flood plains in cities around the world.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Deborah de Lange, Ryerson University

Many cities around the world face a lack of affordable housing in and around expensive central business districts. Employers want cheaper labourers, who need more affordable housing in accordance with their lower salaries, to live nearby. So developers are invited to build on flood plains, without consequences. And often there is no public involvement in the decision.

Flood plains are easy to build on because they are flat and, in cities, they tend to be close to amenities. Yet all parties involved in housing know that cities are facing more rainfall and flooding due to climate change. Cities are now starting to prepare for catastrophic floods. and research has estimated flooding losses in the United States to be increasing dramatically.

Irresponsible and autocratic choices made by elites, at Waterfront Toronto for example, leave unsuspecting, lower-paid professionals in dangerous circumstances with rising insurance costs and potentially bad investments. That’s because, in the future, flood insurance may become prohibitively expensive or insurers may decide not to cover such high-risk properties, making them difficult to sell.

Flood risks worldwide

Difficult housing choices are reflective of a broader loss of worker power and associated income inequality. Research shows that densely populated areas are more vulnerable to disasters — the same disaster affects more people in dense environments. And where there is income inequality, there are more victims of natural catastrophes.




Read more:
Storms hit poorer people harder, from Superstorm Sandy to Hurricane Maria


Cities dominated by appointed, un-elected officials, such as the board members of Waterfront Toronto, are helping to generate this inequality.

In this August 2006 photo, two New Orleans women grieve for a relative who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the U.K., where there’s an ongoing housing crisis, government has approved building on flood plains as long as the new homeowners are made aware of the risks in advance. At least the British are having an honest conversation about it. In Toronto, we are not.

New Orleans has long relegated its poorer populations to lower elevations by the Mississippi River, where floods and subsequent disease have devastated the city. The terrible treatment of Hurricane Katrina’s victims in New Orleans is a continuation of an enduring history of racism.

Research also describes how in the flood plains of Bangladesh, income inequality is related to a higher risk of flooding and lower preparedness to deal with floods.

In South China, increasing rainfall has left millions of the poor living in such dangerous low-lying areas that China’s president has called in the army.

Public space can be climate-adaptive

Today, most North American coastal cities are in danger of climate-related sea level elevations and storm surges. Hurricane Sandy caught New York’s elite off guard because they became victims too. It didn’t matter whether you were in the Upper East Side or in Harlem.

In wealthy south Florida, saltwater rises not only directly from the sea, but also up through porous limestone, so Miami cannot use the same climate adaptation approaches as in some other cities, like adding green space. Miami is working to add pumps and other infrastructure instead.

Toronto could turn its remaining waterfront space into parkland, instead of housing developments, as a protective barrier.




Read more:
Toronto needs more beauty in its waterfront designs


New York City is going to build a wall around the lower part of Manhattan, and add a park. The Dutch are using public space to absorb floodwater. New Orleans is building parks to double as reservoirs for floodwaters, on the advice of the Dutch.

Toronto’s recent floods a wakeup call

Toronto has had a few waterfront floods over the years, including this year and last, damaging the Toronto Islands in 2017. The city faced several storms in 2018 with violent winds and flooding downtown. Some wealthy Torontonians leave the city for private lakefront properties in cottage country, but others live within limited space affected by the aftermath of catastrophes.
The Toronto Islands recovery, for example, is still ongoing and has not yet been fully paid for.

Toronto’s east-end beaches flooded badly in 2017 amid a rainy spring. Housing developers are nonetheless building housing on known flood plains, in Toronto and around the world.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Meanwhile, new Toronto lakefront condominium developments are proceeding in the Quayside and Portlands neighbourhoods, near the Islands, on flood plains historically contaminated by heavy metals, oil and coal. “Workforce housing” is a required part of the plan.

Will Flessig, former Waterfront Toronto CEO, says that middle-income professionals are expected to settle in the waterfront condominiums so that they can be closer to where they work.

But no one in Toronto is talking about the flood plains, since elected officials apparently consider the issue resolved. Based on a plan developed in 2007, the federal and provincial governments are investing $1.185 billion to reconstruct the mouth of the Don River so that the water safely flows into Lake Ontario.

However, the waterfront area still remains a flood plain, and is still affected by storm surges associated with climate change.

Klever Freire, left, and Gabriel Otrin pose for a photograph in the building where they were trapped in a rapidly flooding elevator during a heavy rainstorm in Toronto in August 2018.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Building on flood plains has serious consequences, including future uninsurable buildings as insurance companies anticipate they won’t be able to afford the payouts. A single major flood causes a great deal of damage and requires insurance companies to pay all at once. With a higher frequency of catastrophic floods and the corresponding required payouts, the pool of insurance premiums collected to cover the losses dries up, and insurance companies face bankruptcy.

Before that happens and buildings are left derelict, people and property are endangered. We recently saw life-threatening flooding of buildings in Toronto, and there are limited rescue personnel to address all of the issues at the same time when mass floods happen.

Simultaneously, damage to personal property can be overwhelming — for example, to cars and contents within condominium lockers in underground parking garages. In Toronto, we have also seen streetcars submerged in water recently with people trapped inside.

Flooding stops a streetcar on King St. W. in Toronto on Aug. 7, 2018.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shlomi Amiga

Fixing the damage therefore adds costs to public transit. Water quality and disease concerns are also heightened as storm sewage systems cannot handle increasing rainfall volumes. Over the longer term, repeated flooding also weakens building foundations.

Hard to manage water levels

On a broader scale in the Great Lakes region, the ability to adapt to changing conditions is reduced. That’s because the ability of water officials to manage water levels is much more difficult when condominiums and other housing is built on flood plains.

For example, water flows are somewhat controlled in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds through an international agreement called Plan 2014. If buildings are in the path of water flow, this complicates and limits the range of adjustment options.

We know now what we’re confronting. Let’s learn from past mistakes. In the best interests of homeowners, the public and climate adaptation, what’s left of Toronto’s waterfront should be public parks, not condominiums billed as “workforce housing.”

Deborah de Lange, Associate professor, Ryerson University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ — a movie and a movement

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Crazy Rich Asians depicts cosmopolitan rich Asians with complex humanities.
Warner Bros.

Yunxiang Gao, Ryerson University

On the heels of the Afro-centric Black Panther (2018) comes Crazy Rich Asians, a sure summer hit. Based on Kevin Kwan’s entertaining novel, Crazy Rich Asians boasts an Asian director, screenwriter and a cosmopolitan, super-talented Asian cast.

The film marries familiar western tropes such as Cinderella meets the parents, or, in Chinese culture, The Dream of the Red Chamber, the renowned classic fiction of a sophisticated romantic love story set within noble families of 18th-century China — a Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet.

In Crazy Rich Asians, NYU economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, star of Fresh Off The Boat) accepts her boyfriend Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) seemingly innocuous invitation to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, and at the same time meet his parents. It’s only on the plane, when the couple is suddenly escorted to first class, that Rachel senses Nick is wealthy.

Upon arrival in glamorous Singapore, Rachel meets the engaged couple, Araminta Lee and Colin Khoo (Sonoya Mizuno and Chris Pang), and then reunites with her pal, Peik Lin Goh (rap star Awkwafina). Goh’s nouveau-riche family breathlessly tells her that Nick is the most eligible bachelor in Asia and from one of Singapore’s oldest, wealthiest families.

Goh exclaims: “They are crazy rich!” That an economics professor would not have known this elementary fact about her boyfriend, especially in this age of instant communication, is a small flaw in the plot.

Rachel finds out her boyfriend is wealthy on the way to meet his parents.

Everyone in Singapore knows about Rachel and Nick, however, thanks to Celine Lim (Constance Lau), also known as Radio One Asia, who spots the couple canoodling in New York City and sends a photo that travels instantly among a global network of young, agog Asians. Many of them, including Amanda Ling (Jing Lusi), are disappointed rivals for Nick’s affections and have their knives sharpened for the naïve young professor.

More sympathetic is Nick’s fabulous cousin Astrid Leong Teo (Gemma Chan), a fashionista with marital problems. Fierce opposition comes from Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who finds the commoner unacceptable potential daughter-in-law material.

An intergenerational battle is a main theme in Crazy Rich Asians.
Warner Bros.

 

Yeoh’s effortless performance as the tradition-bound matriarch (her husband is perennially on a business trip) highlights old Singapore’s snobby rejection of the young American striver. The women’s intergenerational battle consumes most of the plot. I will not spoil the ending, though it is an American romantic-comedy, so be assured that all ends well.

The long struggle for Asian representation

In June 1945, Pearl S. Buck, the first female American Nobel laureate for literature and foremost interpreter of China, wrote to H. H. Kung, former financial minister of Republican China (and brother-in-law of the legendary Madam Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of China) to seek funds for her living Chinese Theatre.

Pearl S. Buck expressed her distaste for the way white actors depicted Asians.
CC BY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featuring actress Wang Yung, acclaimed “queen of modern Chinese drama,” Buck’s troupe, the author contended, “may mean the opening up of Hollywood to Chinese actors and actresses in Chinese plays, a project which I have long wanted to see accomplished.”

Buck had in mind her distaste for the “yellow faces” seen in Hollywood — casting white actors as Asians as seen in the 1937 award-winning screen adaption of her famous novel, The Good Earth, the first Hollywood feature film set in contemporary China. The casting director famously rejected Anna May Wong, America’s top actor of Chinese descent, citing Wong was “not Chinese enough.”

Buck longed for Hollywood’s acceptance of Wang and other talented Chinese actors. In my book manuscript, Arise, Africa! Roar, China!: Sino-African-American Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century, I trace the dream of Buck and Wang for Hollywood and Broadway’s acceptance of talented Chinese actors presenting “authentic” modern China without Orientalist prejudices.

Buck and actors of Asian descent had to wait decades for substantial Asian presence in Hollywood productions.

Portrait of Anna May Wong. Hollywood relegated her to playing the ‘exotic other.‘
British Film Institute

Nancy Kwan starred in two films: The World of Suzie Wong (MGM, 1960), a lovely exploration of mixed-race love, and Flower Drum Song (1961), made by Universal Films with a terrific, largely Asian cast. Suzie Wong, despite a fine evocation of Hong Kong, sadly continued an earlier stereotype of the Asian woman as a prostitute.

Flower Drum Song portrayed Chinese immigrants as lowly beggars, including Kam Tong as Dr. Li, a Beijing University graduate, now a street musician. Despite highly favourable reviews and good box office returns, the pair of films stood alone for 30 years.

Move forward to 1993, as Hollywood Pictures presented the Joy Luck Club, a sensitive, brilliant portrayal of four Asian-American women and their convoluted relationships with traditional culture. Directed by Wayne Wang and derived from an Amy Tan novel, the film did well critically and at the box office.

The Joy Luck Club had an all-Asian cast and did well at the box office.
Hollywood Pictures

After that, another lengthy hiatus occurred, interrupted only by the success of Asian productions, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), neither produced in Hollywood. There have been promising signs, including the emergence of significant female stars like Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh, popular television shows like Fresh off the Boat, great comedy (the Harold and Kumar series 2004-2011) and occasional genre-busting independent films like Saving Face, (2004), demonstrating the wealth of top and repertory Asian theatrical talent.

First all-Asian cast in 25 years

It’s now 2018, and Crazy Rich Asians seems poised to be a critical and box office smash hit. Beyond the allure of the all-Asian cast, who seem on screen, even in dark moments, to joyfully exult in their achievement, the dynamic city-state of Singapore, and by extension, young, rich Asia, the film stuns the audience with its opulence. Despite the back-stabbing schemers and occasional oafish parvenu men, Singapore Chinese are portrayed as vibrant, wealthy and young. Women are gorgeous, male leads are genial hunks.

America, the dream world of past films, is perceived as an unacceptable, impoverished exile. The children in Goh’s family are sternly instructed to eat their chicken nuggets gratefully because “there are children starving in America.” Music ameliorates culture-crossing; the soundtrack consists of Canto pop, 1930s “yellow music” (Chinese adaption of Jazz) in Shanghai, and great Asian interpretations of Madonna and Elvis songs.

Director Jon M. Chu, cinematographer Vanja Cernjul and screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim use foundation shots to display Singapore as a glittery playground for the rich, who cavort on rooftop pools, plunge into the city’s extraordinary food markets or helicopter off to private beaches.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ showcases Singapore as a playground for the rich.
Warner Bros.

Their mansions, invariably shown at night in spectacular colour, are dream worlds. Fashion is the most constant desire. Everyone dresses expensively, from the tacky Goh family to the uptight family of Charlie Wu (Harry Shum, Jr.) and the cosmopolitan Astrid, the preferred customer for Parisian and Asian designers.

Astrid collects clothes and jewelry to assuage the pain of her failed marriage; she hides her million-dollar purchases from her husband. The jewelry is genuine; Chan had a bodyguard to protect against theft while wearing the baubles.

The film is unashamed of its excess. Indeed, that may be the point. Cosmopolitan rich Asians with complex humanities invoke China’s wealth during Marco Polo’s time, as suggested by the book.

It relives the power, material culture (extravagant clothing and cuisines), and traditional structures of the dominant noble families during late imperial China depicted in The Dream of Red Chamber. The detail of the heroine almost mistakenly drinking tea meant for hand washing in the film comes directly from that classical fiction.

Asian filmmakers have confidently created pure Hollywood escapism with a magnificent production and cast. That may not be what Pearl Buck envisioned in 1945, but it tells the world that Asia and Asian-Americans have arrived, and can produce magnificent films.

Yunxiang Gao, Associate Professor, Department of History, Ryerson University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The secret formula for becoming an elite athlete

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Specializing in a specific sport at an early age is not necessary to become an Olympic athlete. In fact, the opposite is true.
(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Nicole W. Forrester, Ryerson University

The next Olympics are less than two years away and for many athletes, the Games in Tokyo will be the pinnacle event in their career. Aspiring Olympians strive to compete on the world’s largest sporting stage, but only a few will ever realize that goal.

While anatomical and physiological factors clearly play a role in the development of a super-elite athlete, there are other critical components necessary to achieve success.

So, just how does somebody become an Olympian? As an Olympian and former world-class high jumper, I know that hard work and dedication are just part of the formula for success.

It is not uncommon for coaches, parents and athletes to believe that specializing in a sport at an early age is the secret ingredient to becoming a world-class athlete — especially when you consider the success of athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, who excelled in their sports at an early age. However, research exploring elite athlete development suggests their chosen path is less common than the typical case.

The 10,000-hour myth

In addition to the belief that starting early is a path to success, the popularity of the 10,000-hour rule has given rise to the belief that a certain numeric value of time must be acquired for an individual to become an expert.

The 10,000-hour rule is a fallacy that has been taken out of context, neglecting the most significant research findings by Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson.

In that seminal study into the development of expertise in musicians, Ericsson and colleagues found talent to be the result of “deliberate practice” that occurred over a span of 10 years — or approximately 10,000 hours for some individuals. The study stated the concept of deliberate practice was more important than any magical number.

Deliberate practice is a highly structured activity requiring intense effort and is not inherently enjoyable. It is not about training and clocking in the hours of practice. Rather, it is about being immersed in the action at hand, with the end goal of improving one’s performance. In fact, the acquisition of expertise has been achieved with as few as 4,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Testing the theory of deliberate practice and 10,000 hours, Dan McLaughlin, at the age of 30, quit his job and began to learn how to golf with the hopes of achieving his PGA Tour card. He reached a golf handicap of two by the summer of 2018.

The importance of play

Musicians, athletes and other people in other fields pursuing excellence appear to share the need for deliberate practice. However, sport also requires the unique element of deliberate play — arguably just as important as deliberate practice.

Deliberate play is intrinsically motivating unstructured play in sport, designed to provide a high degree of enjoyment. An example of deliberate play is a group of kids playing shinny instead of an organized hockey game. Ice time and positions are not structured by an adult, and kids of different ages and skills play against each other for the sake of fun.

On the surface, deliberate play may not appear to provide immediate benefits in the advancement of an athlete’s ability. The real benefits of deliberate play are actually realized later in an athlete’s development.

Deliberate play provides a breadth of cognitive and motor experiences while supporting an athlete’s later involvement in deliberate practice activities. Most importantly, it is fun and keeps children enjoying sports. The most common reason youths drop out of sport is that it is no longer fun. That means the best way to ensure your child drops out of sport is to force them to specialize at an early age.

In a study exploring the amount of training time elite hockey players acquired, researchers from Queen’s University found that by the age of 20, an equal amount of time was shared between deliberate play and deliberate practice.

Sport specific vs. multiple sports

There is also a myth that participating in many different sports is not advantageous in advancing an athletes’ ability. By engaging in various sports, athletes are able to develop a breadth of skills transferable to their eventual primary sport. In fact, researchers have found elite athletes spent less time training in their primary sport before the age of 15 compared to their less successful counterparts.

Sports researchers use something called the development model of sport participation to study elite athletes. The model shows that having a diverse sports background does not hinder the performance of elite athletes.

Athletes who develop skills in one sport are able to transfer those skills to another seemingly different sport and still reap the gains. For example, a child who has played soccer may have developed the skill of reading the field of play. This skill is also applicable and transferable to a sport like basketball, where that same athlete must learn to read plays on the court.

Recognizing the progression of athlete development, the Long-Term Athlete Development model is a framework enacted by sport organizations to promote skill learning in accordance to human development.
Sport for Life Society

 

 

In the initial phase of the development model, termed the sampling years, athletes are introduced to various sports with a focus on having fun and deliberate play. In their teens, athletes enter the specializing years and begin to reduce their involvement in numerous sports. In this phase, the element of having fun is still important and coupled with the introduction of intentional effort.

As athletes advance in age (approximately 15 years and older), they enter the investment years and begin to focus on a primary sport. It is here where deliberate practice plays a larger role and the role of deliberate play lessons.

While this model is not intended to be the universal approach to developing sport expertise for all athletes, it certainly provides a framework for recognizing the integral role of deliberate play, deliberate practice and diversification in sport play.

It is worth noting that other factors. such as one’s (date of birth) and the size of their town (the size of their town), has also been associated with predicting elite athlete development. These cases highlight the role that environment plays in an athlete’s development.

Sometimes luck plays a role

And then there’s the element of luck, which was a factor in my own athletic career.

Author Nicole Forrester, seen here competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, didn’t start high jumping until she was 18 years old.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

I was almost 18 when a track and field coach saw me and my tall, lean physique working at McDonald’s and gave me the phone number of a high jump coach at the University of Toronto. That fateful day led me to become a member of 20 national teams, an eight-time Canadian champion, an Olympian and a multi-medalist on various major Games, spanning a career more than 15 years.

I attribute my quick progression in the high jump to the various sports I played growing up. Had I started specializing in my sport at an earlier age, I doubt I would have lasted for as long as I did or had the same level of success.

The path to becoming an Olympian requires a mixture of important ingredients that may vary according to the sport and the individual athlete. Ultimately, for many, the path is navigated through deliberate play and involvement in various sports, developed through a commitment of deliberate practice, and reinforced by support, resources, motivation and effort.

Most importantly, in sports where peak performance occurs after maturation, early sport specialization is not the answer to becoming a super elite athlete.

Nicole W. Forrester, Assistant Professor, School of Media, Ryerson University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Toronto needs more beauty in its waterfront designs

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Density is an idea sold to us by corporate developers who want to build on every last bit of green space. To fully enjoy our city now and for the future, we need more public green space. (Shutterstock)

Deborah de Lange, Ryerson University

A healthy and happy city includes creating social capital — those benefits that come with social networks, public spaces and community, much as the Danes have in their famous city of Copenhagen. Toronto’s focus, too, should be on “place-making” rather than city building. How can our waterfront contribute towards Toronto becoming a happy city?

The proposed project by Sidewalk Toronto, “high-tech” Quayside, is the most recent excuse to develop our waterfront with condos. It is ultimately just a dressed-up “real-estate play.”

We do not need to install an entirely new and experimental “smart city” on 12 acres of prime Toronto waterfront. We should not then also give away another 800 acres in the Port Lands to developers, a space almost as large as Manhattan’s Central Park.

The need for public waterfront space

Toronto’s waterfront is a magnet for nearby city dwellers, not only local residents. We seek out the waterfront on our long weekends. Families have barbecues and reunions in lakeside parks; volleyball players need a beach.

Congestion occurs because so many people want to escape to be near the water.

Where will millions more in the future go given the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is projected to have a population of about 13 million by 2066? We should not repeat the same mistakes made by the government-appointed Waterfront Toronto, “the public steward of waterfront revitalization,” of not planning for sufficient public green space.

Toronto’s urban dwellers are attracted to the downtown core.
Eugene Aikimov/Unsplash

 

“Density” is promoted for the benefit of corporate developers. But if more and more people are to be without the privacy and pleasure of a backyard for the sake of increasing density, then we need public parks to compensate for this. The cooler waterfront is the best location for more parkland, especially as we face blazing hot summers related to climate change.

The existing built environment at Toronto’s lakefront has so far been unsuccessful in “place-making” — turning spaces into communities. The west side of the lakefront (Bathurst to Yonge Streets) does not have enough parkland. The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization project added more concrete and traffic confusion to the already built environment of condominiums. The eastern side is also filling up with condos up to the water’s edge. Someone needs to stand up and protect what is left of Toronto’s lakefront for social capital building and climate adaptation.

Place-making can work

Some great North American cities are known for heroic efforts in place-making. In Chicago, entrepreneur-turned-magnate Aaron Montgomery Ward fought a 20-year battle to save Grant Park from greedy builders. Today, Montgomery Ward’s celebrated legacy is Chicago’s waterfront park: It is what makes Chicago a great city.

New York City has its Central Park. Central Park is one of the outstanding design features that makes New York forever attractive.

New York’s Central Park was created to improve public health.
Shutterstock

 

The New York State legislature stepped up to purchase more than 750 acres, 843 acres today, of parkland because, even in 1853, politicians understood that “a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society.” Manhattan, well-known for its limited and expensive real estate, is 13 miles long and 2.3 miles wide; Central Park is 2.5 miles long and a half mile wide.

Also, Boston’s parks, including Boston Common and the Public Garden, have been preserved. The Public Garden is the first botanical garden in the United States, established in 1837, and is considered one of Boston’s greatest attractions.

Toronto still has a chance with the waterfront space that remains.

Why is Waterfront Toronto contemplating building more condominiums? It seems the organization is attempting to pack too much into the precious waterfront space. Does a park seem too simple? Well, simplicity is majesty, as the great parks central to other world-class cities suggest. Toronto should be preserving waterfront space and making it our “Central Park.”

Toronto’s last decade has seen a rise in residential buildings, many on the waterfront, possibly related to the influence of a now-defunct Ontario Municipal Board, which gave developers too much power.

Those days are gone as of this year, so Toronto can revise its approach to be more like that of Vancouver, where the new chief planner is talking about a “vision for the future.”

Density is not the solution

The cost of living, a lack of space, transport issues, pollution and noise are problems in dense environments.

But density is not equivalent to affordable housing, especially in a downtown core. It’s a myth that developers espouse because they make more money selling more units on a smaller parcel of land.

Increased density by way of taller buildings is also not safe for people, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In a 2016 CMAJ study, people living above the third floor had lower survival rates after cardiac arrest. That was due to the time it took to reach them and, in some cases, because elevators were too small for stretchers. Above the 25th floor, no one survived.

Research offers this warning: “If development is not in the right place, at the right time, and in the right form, even compact urban
forms can disrupt ecological and social systems
.”

Tech hubs should be built elsewhere

We have lots of space around the GTA for experimenting with smart-city technologies. Transit hubs — communities built around major transit stops — begin as smaller spaces, not located on precious lakefront property. They can become additional vibrant central business districts where new smart-city technologies may be tried out as smaller individual pilot tests.

Toronto can add compact communities, with architecturally interesting low-rise buildings like Boston’s brownstones but without the hefty price tags, because they are not downtown. These communities can also include workplaces near to homes. With many of these mixed-use hubs, commuting is reduced, local housing is more affordable and small business rents are decreased. Downtown locations, while still desirable, are no longer required.

There is still time to save Toronto’s waterfront. Here are the Toronto Islands (formerly Hiawatha or Menecing). Shutterstock

 

Integrated into a park-focused, climate-adaptive waterfront vision should be inspiration, beautification and monumental design that creates social capital as a primary goal, and ultimately, a happy world-class city.

Toronto needs to step back and reconsider its development assumptions and approach, including citizen participation in design, not just consultation or communications. The city should find inspiration in international examples of place-making like Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, as well as Vancouver, as it reconsiders its direction.

Toronto could still take back control of at least part of its rare and precious lakefront. The city could create an extraordinary public experience, possibly with world-class monumental architecture placed within a larger green space to satisfy and inspire future generations of happy city dwellers.

Who will create a green vision for our waterfront, as Montgomery Ward did for Chicago?

Deborah de Lange, Associate professor, Ryerson University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.