Mike in TO

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That letter gives a perfect rationale as to why we have professional planners and expert witnesses at the OMB to ensure decisions are based on evidence, the public interest, provincial policy and long-term planning rationale rather then short-term political and local interests. The letter written by Mr. Graff reads as one of those "anti intellectualism / anti-expert" tea party supporter type views of the world. Of course the city has to hire outside lawyers & planners to appear before the OMB when council votes against the recommendations of their own planning department. They are professionals and bound by a code of ethics - they can't appear before the tribunal and toss their professional opinion and their own reports out the window based on the whims & political pressures of council - so the city goes and finds someone else to make their case and the city planners are often called as "expert witnesses" to testify against the council position.

Those are the cases that the city loses almost every single time and for good reason, which why the OMB is an important component of the land-use planning and appeals system - it makes evidence based planning decisions and takes local politics out of planning.

Professional planners are registered by the Ontario Professional Planners Institute - which is a long process and requires ongoing professional learning every year. Furthermore, most planners have at least a Bachelors of Urban Planning degree or a Masters - University of Waterloo and Ryerson University are the two schools in Ontario with undergraduate programs. Ryerson also has a graduate program and the U of T Cities Centre has an urban studies graduate program.
 

ProjectEnd

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Thanks Mike. Well put.

As a planner who is currently working through the long and arduous MCIP RPP process myself, I find Mr. Graff's letter both insulting ("real" profession(?)) and ignorant (planning is evidence-based and is therefore highly scientific). It wouldn't be difficult to pick it apart piece by piece but Mike has done a great job so I'll just leave it at that.

As an aside, Queen's University in Kingston also has a graduate planning program (my alma mater).
 

argus

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A very poor letter indeed. Isn't the writer a member of the Beach residents association?
 

ShonTron

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I'm surprised the Star ran it. The writer doesn't even get a simple homonym - "hear" - correct.
 

Mike in TO

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The letter writer is also with Save Queen Street and the Beach Residents Association - apparently doesn't have much love for planners following their professional support for six-storey mid-rise along an avenue with frequent streetcar service.
 

yyzer

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Whoops! I must have misinterpreted that letter lol......:eek:

//sheesh
 

ThomasJ

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ummm....."oughtn't"??


I dunno. I think it's a poorly written, fairly incoherent letter itself. Curious logic, too. So what if planners aren't licenced? By Brian Graff's logic, oughtn't? councillors be licensed and trained as well? To, you know, properly represent the people rather than, say, lie incessantly, smoke crack and hang out with hoodlums? Maybe we ought to also license forum posting, too. Just to be thorough and make sure everyone gets in line.

The problem with reform of such entities is this: the nasty politicization of the process often entails a scenario where the remedy is worse than the problem it's intended to replace.
 

Graydon

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Just to toss in my two cents on the letter, in reference to what planners care about - Heritage Preservation Services is located within City Planning, and works closely with their colleagues in the planning department. If the city (councillors) and the bureaucrats did not care about heritage, they certainly would not have approved the increase in HPS staff in last week's budget. From my understanding, the current planning department under Keesmaat is very receptive to heritage concerns - its city councillors and private interests that so often influence the final outcome.

And his criticism of planning as a subjective practice, and of it not being a 'real' profession is outrageous, but that bush has clearly been beaten.
 

waterloowarrior

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I'm surprised the planners weren't also accused of being in cahoots with the developers. I'm sure planners wish they could be more subjective "Your condo proposal meets all our policies but I don't like the design... go back to the drawing board and replace G&C with aA" "I think big box stores are bad so please go away SmartCentres."

It's quite possible that many city hall planners didn't like this development even after the changes and enlarged lot size, and personally want to keep Restaurant Row the way it is... but they are supposed to give professional recommendations to Council based on planning policy, legislation and principles, after hearing input from residents, agencies, other departments, and supporting studies prepared by professionals... they can't recommend denial just because they don't like the proposal or the neighbourhood association is up in arms (that's what politicians are for). Same goes the other way around... I think the Mirvish-Gehry towers look great, but after reading the city's planning report I'd probably make the same recommendation to refuse if I was in their shoes.
 
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btg

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I dunno. I think it's a poorly written, fairly incoherent letter itself. Curious logic, too. So what if planners aren't licenced? By Brian Graff's logic, oughtn't councillors be licensed and trained as well? To, you know, properly represent the people rather than, say, lie incessantly, smoke crack and hang out with hoodlums? Maybe we ought to also license forum posting, too. Just to be thorough and make sure everyone gets in line.

I wrote the letter....

The OMB treats planners as "experts" who swear to be non-partisan, but are anything but. I have seen this for myself, particularly in the case of planners working for developers. The same goes for architects too, despite being licensed.

Anyone can call themselves a "planner" in Ontario - OPPI membership is given some authority though all that the province does is limit RPP usage to members of OPPI alone without any other oversight.

What we have is self regulation - like a guild. Even for things like the legal profession, which is licensed yet this is still largely controlled by the legal profession, there is a problem with whose interests are being served first - the legal profession, or the public's.

Licensing elected officials is a slippery slope, though there should be some training for first time councillors so that they understand the obligations and limitations of their roles, and obviously in terms of the probems of Rob Ford, there needs to be some way of removing Councillors for cause when there is misconduct - whereas today only if a Councillor is imprisoned can they be removed.

Funny how we have the OMB to reject decisions made by a democratically elected body and to hear matters "de novo", while misconduct of councillors or mayors is so impossible to police in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, London etc.
 

btg

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That letter gives a perfect rationale as to why we have professional planners and expert witnesses at the OMB to ensure decisions are based on evidence, the public interest, provincial policy and long-term planning rationale rather then short-term political and local interests. The letter written by Mr. Graff reads as one of those "anti intellectualism / anti-expert" tea party supporter type views of the world.

Evidence based?

It is opinion based - and the opinion of one person sworn in as an 'expert" saying "black is white" counts before the board, while the opinion of 1,000 people who are not sworn in as "experts" counts for zero.

If an expert lies or distorts the truth, there is no enforcement, and there are no recording of hearing or transcripts, making appeals difficult and making it impossible to police the "experts".

Planners testifying for developers are bound to be biased - in two ways. First off, any planner or planning firm that is not biased towards the interests of the development industry (more height, density, etc.,) won't get hired, won't get repeat business once they break ranks or bite the hand that feeds them. Other potential clients will shun them too. There is very little business to be gained from residents groups or non-corporate clients, and even public sector business is not much of most planning firms business. So, the only firms that survive will be pro-developer.

If David Mirvish or any other developer wants 80 storeys, any planner that says they cannot support it would be fired before it is ever made public or gets to the OMB.

It is Darwinian - any planner who isn't pro-developer ultimately won't have a career in the private sector. Selection bias both in terms of which firms survive, and on any given assignment. Planners like to eat, buy homes, save for retirement like the rest of us - self-interest rules - planners are no more saints than the rest of us.

No other province has anything like the OMB, for good reason. Even something as scientific as medicine is also an art. Planning is mostly opinion and very little science - and where it is science, it is usually relying on the work of engineers or other fields of study.

I am not anti-intellectual or a Tea Party type - merely a skeptic, or cynical. Remember, at one time, many doctors recommended that patients should smoke! DDT and asbestos were considered safe, etc.

Let me put it this way - did you believe the "experts" working for tobacco companies? That is how much I trust planners at the OMB.

Ones working for government are a different story, but not much better.
 

btg

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Thanks Mike. Well put.

As a planner who is currently working through the long and arduous MCIP RPP process myself, I find Mr. Graff's letter both insulting ("real" profession(?)) and ignorant (planning is evidence-based and is therefore highly scientific).

And creationism is scientific too, I guess?

Evidence? Where is the evidence in the avenues policies for 45 degree angular planes, that the ideal street proportion is 1:1, of, but then somehow it isn't because we apply a front angular plane at 805 of the streetwall...

If 5 different planners give you 5 different answers, it is not scientific - economics call itself a profession, but it is not one.

There are the "traditional" professions - law, engineer, medical doctor. Architects are a traditional profession, and while there are scientific parts of it related to engineering, there is no wayt to say that you can apply science to aesthetics to justify Gehry or vilify him either.

There is professional wrestling, and professional dog walkers... if profession just means a "career" then planning is a profession, like many other things, and the word is meaningless.

If you want to say that a "profession" involves education skill and judgement, then it is really an art and not science based. .. and many planners, and architects for that matter, are lacking in art and produce terrible work.

Funny how a journalist, Jane Jacobs, is the most highly respected person most people will name when you mention "planning". All those high-rise public housing projects that have been demolished since Pruitt-Igoe (US, Canada and Britain) were all the result of planning theory about urban renewal. Meanwhile Paris is considered one of the great cities in the word - and as someone else mentioned to me, most of the places people like best were not "planned" as such - though Paris was of course re-planned with wide boulevards etc., but not scientifically!

No doubt you have put a lot of hard work and study into your MCIP and RPP - but while you might be educated and better informed, sometimes the people who will oppose you will be in the right and you will be in the wrong.
 

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