York Urbanist

Archive for September, 2011

the line between politics and planning

September 30th, 2011

This would be a great how-to book if any one could discern the line between politics and planning. In 1998 Honduras, there was no line. You partner with a politician and build. How different is this than Doug Ford and the Port lands? Hopefully, this has gone away.

Toronto Gardens Awards

September 22nd, 2011

invitation to Toronto Gardens Oct 11 11

I am pleased to announce the winners of the Toronto Gardens Contest to be held October 11.

Tennis – anyone….Serena

September 14th, 2011

The tennis buzz (for the this week) is about Serena William’s outburst to the referee at the 2011 US Open.

The WTA is aware that such news stories keep tennis in the public eye.  Hence the pat on the bum by fining Serena $2000.  She can probably cobble that together from the $500k she won at the US Open by being the best over the past year. The Williams sisters have been outsiders to the tennis fraternity/elite since they exploded onto the scene in the late 90′s…and when they are healthy few can return their serves. Congratulations to Samantha Stosur for her endurance and strength in beating the real #1.

But the crux of the story is the elitism of the sport.  Few top players come from the public community courts that are often weed bearing and rippled asphalt from underuse and little attention.  Tennis in Canada may see a slight upsurge thanks to Rebecca Marino and a guy named Milos Raonic. Tennis Canada is even pulling in the 40 year old icon, Pete Sampras to play a hopefully healthy Raonic at the Rogers Centre in November 2011.  Without this recent notoriety (and the efforts of Own the Podium) tennis would be on the wane as a sport, usurped by the growing cricket and UFC excitement.

Country clubs continue, but their growth is miniscule to none.  The US Open escapades explained how one shout by Serena can upset the puritans. If you are new to the sport, good luck in breaking in to the cliques established at those clubs.  And, OMG, don’t ever shout or berate or accidently hit a ball at your opponents on the other side of the net. Your fate will be isolation from this most proper of sports.

Tennis needs some heroes like Raonic and Marino.  Will they rise in the ranks? Tennis would be well advised to bring the sport down to the commoners level and get real pros out to the masses on the public courts.  Otherwise, the construction of 36′ x 78′ of asphalt, or clay would be better spent on part of a soccer pitch. Good luck Tennis Canada


September 13th, 2011
Healthy Communities

Students are so refreshing.  Is it naivity or just that their ideals have not been tainted by the realities of politics?

The High Line

September 11th, 2011
Parks, Urban Design


this concept of a linear park is an example to the world, if it is truly the real deal shown on the website. It is a bridge between the fuddy-duddiness of park designs of the past, uses the past to connect the future and endears itself to a new generation.  This will be a destination for my next trip.


September 6th, 2011
Urban Design

It is off to School…not for our children but for us.  My wife enters a masters program at Laurier while I give lectures on Landscape Resources at Guelph.  It is enlightening to see where this profession of landscape architecture all starts.  In an environment of enthusiasm and comraderie, the University of Guelph is readying for the influx of thousands of eager students. The most cogent of the many pieces of advice that I received was that students will come in with the eagerness, but by December it will have been transformed into anxious tension. I hope to tell you in December that I have changed all that tension to academic splendour. 

Pruning Techniques

September 2nd, 2011

This time of year finds many of those plants that we love invade our space unintended.  Notwithstanding that I am a landscape ARCHITECT, I continue to be asked, “how do I prune my … shrubs…. roses… trees.  Obligingly, here is the procedure.

“To encourage rapid healing of wounds, make all cuts clean and smooth. This requires good, sharp pruning equipment. Do not leave stubs since they are usually where die back occurs. Avoid tearing the bark when removing large branches. The following provides some specifics on pruning techniques.

Most woody plants fall into two categories based on the arrangement of the buds on the twigs and branches. In general, the bud arrangements determine the plants’s typical growth habit. Buds may have an alternate or an opposite arrangement on the twigs. A plant with alternate buds usually is rounded, pyramidal, inverted pyramidal, or columnar in shape. Plants having opposite buds rarely assume any form other than that of a rounded tree or shrub with a rounded crown. The position of the last pair of buds always determines the direction in which the new shoot will grow. Buds on top of the twig probably will grow upward at an angle and to the side on which it is directed. In most instances, it is advisable to cut back each stem to a bud or branch.  Selected buds that point to the outside of the plant are more desirable than buds pointing to the inside. By cutting to an outside bud, the new shoots will not grow through the interior of the plants or crisscross.

When cutting back to an intersecting (lateral) branch, choose a branch that forms an angle of no more than 45 degrees with the branch to be removed (Figure 5). Also, the branch that you cut back to should have a diameter of at least half that of the branch to be removed. Make slanting cuts when removing limbs that grow upward; this prevents water from collecting in the cut and expedites healing. ”


picture from www.healthierorganics.com

This blog is the result of my daughter’s job. She called from the job site and asked, “How do I…”. I guess folks consider that pruning is an inherited type of gene.

Traffic Signals and a Cultural Shift

September 1st, 2011
Urban Design

What impact a simple traffic signal can have.

Over the past four years, Major Mackenzie west of Hwy 400 has taken on a greater traffic load with new subdivisions in Woodbridge growing around it.  What traffic planners do not warn the public is the distance to which a traffic signal can influence.  The installation of one signalized intersection west of Weston Road so confounded drivers that there was a drive-to-work cultural shift to not one but two concessions north.

Teston Road was constructed for low flow traffic.  It has since become a washboard and a cyclist’s nightmare.  The 60km speed limit is faint hope to keep monitored. I have seen one cyclist-vehicle collision and there are more to come. One concession north on Kirby, the intersection with Hwy 27 will undoubtedly fall to the engineers designs and become signalized. These once quiet rural retreats have become urban thoroughfares without the required preparation for their ultimate fate.

Good luck to my cycling friends, and a middle finger to those cars that clip cycle pedals.