Special Report: Parking

OMB Dismisses HHS Appeal for Surface Parking Expansion in Beasley

Thanks to the joined strength of all our voices, we were able to defend residents' vision for a renewing downtown.

By Michael Borrelli
Published March 15, 2016

In a decision [PDF] that is being celebrated among resident associations in downtown Hamilton, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) dismissed an appeal by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) that would have resulted in the addition of 158 parking spots to an existing 640-spot parking at Ferguson and Barton streets, near the Hamilton General Hospital.

Current HHS parking lot (RTH file photo)
Current HHS parking lot (RTH file photo)

At an OMB pre-hearing held in Dundas last September, residents' associations in downtown's Beasley, Central and North End neighbourhoods registered to be participants in the case, plus five private citizens concerned by the lot expansion.

Along with the City of Hamilton, these eight participants were brought together by a shared view that HHS's plan violated the vision and principles laid out in the City of Hamilton's West Harbour "Setting Sail" Secondary plan.

The secondary plan calls for additional medium-density residential development in the subject corner of Beasley which is currently dominated by institutional buildings and large asphalt parking lots.

After hearing about the decision, Beasley Neighbourhood Association President Allison Chewter thanked the community for its support, and was relieved to see a positive vision for the area maintained.

"We also credit the City for defending the vision laid out in Setting Sail, especially Councillor Jason Farr who understands Beasley already has more than enough surface parking lots."

Local musician Edgardo Moreno lives across the street from the proposed parking lot expansion and spoke as a witness at the OMB hearing. Like other residents who took time from their lives to attend the five-day hearing in February, he told the OMB Chair the kind of day-to-day impact the expansion would have on his quality of life, and that of his neighbours.

"I told the OMB that due to the layout of the site, my neighbours and I would lose any sense of privacy in our homes, we'd have car-lights shining right in our bedrooms, and garbage and pollution running into our backyards."

Other interesting information arose during the five days of hearings and witness questioning, including:

The provincially-funded Hamilton Health Sciences hospital network hired premier planning law firm Turkstra Mazza & Associates to represent them at the hearing, where HHS executives spoke about the perceived need for additional parking in the area.

In her decision, OMB Vice-Chair J. V. Zuidema noted:

While I agree that the hospital provides a necessary public service, ensuring its employees have adequate parking in order to provide that service is an operational issue which the hospital is obligated to address. The shuttling of employees is not ideal but remedying this unfortunate circumstance should not come at the expense of the surrounding neighbourhood.

Speaking personally following this unexpected win, I'm amazed what could be accomplished when residents work together.

We never thought we had much of a chance against Hamilton Health Sciences with all the resources at their disposal, but thanks to the strength of all our voices, we were able to defend residents' vision for a renewing downtown.

Thanks to the City and everyone who spoke, planned, read, listened, learned, gave up time, sat in the audience, and drank too much coffee - you helped earn a rare citizens' victory at the OMB!

Text of the Ruling

Following is the text of the ruling:

DECISION DELIVERED BY J. V. ZUIDEMA AND ORDER OF THE BOARD

[1] Hamilton Health Science Corporation (“HHSC”) made site-specific applications for an Official Plan Amendment (“OPA”) and Zoning By-Law Amendment (“ZBA”) to the City of Hamilton’s (“City”) Secondary Plan, specifically the West Harbour/Setting Sail Secondary Plan (“Setting Sail”) and the City’s Zoning By-Law respectively.

[2] The purpose of the OPA was to modify the existing land use designation that permitted medium density residential uses to also include parking as a stand-alone use in order to expand the existing HHSC parking lot on Ferguson Avenue North (“the 640 lot”) to include two parcels, 201 Robert Street (“the Robert lot”) and 166 Ferguson Avenue North (“the Ferguson lot”) and collectively referenced as the “subject properties.”

[3] The purpose of the ZBA was to amend the existing zoning to achieve the same development as that described for the OPA.

[4] HHSC appealed under ss. 17(40) and ss. 34(11) of the Planning Act for City Council’s failure to make a decision within the statutory time periods for both the OPA and ZBA.

[5] On that point, the facts show that the City’s Planning Committee did make its decision on May 5, 2015, recommending the applications be denied. The matter was to go before City Council approximately a week later but in the interim, HHSC appealed to this Board.

[6] When the matter was before City Council, it endorsed the Planning Committee’s recommendation despite the appeals.

[7] Planning Staff for the City, through a report dated April 14, 2015, had recommended approval of the applications. Mr. Greg MacDonald, the author of the report appeared under summons by HHSC.

[8] On behalf of HHSC, I heard from the following witnesses:

a. Ms. Brenda Flaherty, senior employee of HHSC and lay witness;

b. Mr. MacDonald, City Planner appearing under summons, qualified and accepted as an expert witness in land use planning;

c. Mr. Mark Conway, qualified and accepted as an expert in land use planning and as a land economist;

d. Mr. Ed Fothergill, qualified and accepted as an expert in land use planning;

e. Ms. Kelly Campbell, senior employee with HHSC and lay witness.

[9] On behalf of the City, I heard from:

a. Mr. Edward (Ted) Davidson, qualified and accepted as an expert in land use planning.

[10] I heard from the following Participants, each as lay witnesses:

a. Mr. Edgardo Moreno, a musician and abutting neighbour to the Robert lot;

b. Mr. Rob Fieldler, a doctoral candidate in urban geography at York University and resident in the neighbourhood;

c. Dr. John Neary, a physician with St. Joseph’s Health Care and resident in the neighbourhood;

d. Ms. Allison Chewter, a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in Urban Planning and currently the President of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association.

[11] Further to reviewing all of the materials filed; hearing from expert and lay witnesses; hearing and receiving submissions from Counsel for the Parties and conducting site visits during standard business hours and off-peak hours, I determine that the appeals are dismissed. My reasons follow.

BACKGROUND

[12] One of the themes running through the evidence provided by the residents of the area and the City was that what was occurring in this case was “piece-meal” or ad-hoc planning. There is some history to this proposal and it is useful to set out some of the background in summary form.

[13] Over a decade ago, the City initiated with extensive public consultation, the Setting Sail Secondary Plan for this area. The subject property falls within this Plan and as such, while there was an appeal of Setting Sail and some matters were and still are outstanding, despite the approval of the City’s new Urban Hamilton Official Plan (“UHOP”), it was agreed by the Planners that the operative policy for this matter was the Setting Sail Plan.

[14] Setting Sail identified a long term vision for this area. Over the years, the City had invested considerable time and money to see that vision move forward. There has been significant re-investment in this area as a result. Examples include the Wesley Urban Ministries buildings along Ferguson Avenue North and the Ferguson Bridge over the CN Rail Tracks facilitating a link from this area to the City’s waterfront. The City has also renovated the streetscape along Ferguson with interlocking brick street lay-by parking, wider boulevards and enhanced landscaping.

[15] Part of this vision was to identify the subject properties, along with another parcel, namely the 640 lot, as mixed use. The hope was that over time, commercial, retail and residential uses would be established.

[16] In 2009, an application was made by HHSC to permit the 640 lot along Ferguson to be used as a parking lot. The remaining two parcels, the Robert lot and the Ferguson lot, were to be severed but continue to be identified for medium density residential development.

[17] That earlier decision was challenged and residents in the area were concerned that this area, known as the Beasley Neighbourhood, already had too many surface parking lots – a criticism heard again at this hearing. The City, on that occasion however, supported the change but placed a holding provision to realize the completion of two eating establishments, a Tim Horton’s and an A & W restaurant near the intersection of Barton and Ferguson. Those two restaurants now exist. The subject properties nonetheless were to remain as designated and identified for future residential development.

[18] The matter before me is a second attempt by HHSC to deviate from the policies of Setting Sail. On this point, I agree with the residents in this area that what in fact is occurring is an incremental “chipping away” of the broader vision identified for this stable albeit fragile neighbourhood.

[19] For this reason, I cannot support the proposed site-specific OPA and ZBA as in my estimation, this does not reflect good planning nor is it in the public interest.

NEED

[20] Another theme which dominated this hearing was that the hospital needed the parking. I heard from Ms. Flaherty and Ms. Campbell, each is a senior bureaucrat but testified as laypersons on behalf of their employer.

[21] The evidence of Ms. Flaherty and Ms. Campbell can be summarized as follows:

i. in order to attract the best employees, the hospital needs to provide adequate parking for those employees as many commute from outside the City;

ii. the parking that HHSC currently has is deficient for its needs now and into the future. The existing parking garage located along Victoria Avenue North south of Birge St. along with other surface parking facilities are at 85% to 90% capacity;

iii. the shuttle bus which HHSC runs to an off-site parking lot (the “Dafasco lot”) approximately 3 km away is not ideal nor sustainable for the long term. It costs the hospital $100,000 per year to run the shuttle. Lease costs for the Dafasco lot are donated back to the hospital. Employees do not pay to use the shuttle service. The shuttle adds 30 to 45 minutes to the commute and the hospital needs to consider this for the well-being of its employees.

[22] As employees of the hospital, I took their evidence as reflecting the operational needs of the hospital to continue providing high quality health care services to this community and to the broader public throughout the province.

[23] I heard from these witnesses that the need to locate more parking on the subject properties was a direct result of the construction and completion of the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (“RJCHC”) formerly referred to as the McMaster Children’s Health Centre.

[24] Because of the deadlines associated with funding from the Ministry of Health, the RJCHC needed to be completed within a specific timeframe or the hospital risked the loss of the funding. As such, the issue of how and where to replace the lost parking (from the RJCHC site), which parking served the entire HHSC campus not just RJCHC, would be addressed at a later time.

[25] Both hospital witnesses conceded that in looking back, this process was not ideal. A solution could have been to construct a parking garage but that would cost 10 million dollars, money which the hospital does not have and for which the Ministry does not cover. The Ministry only funds surface parking.

[26] I asked Mr. Fothergill about alternative sites and options given that the shuttle to the Dafasco lot was not sustainable, and particularly whether any surrounding landowners with private parking had been approached to enter into a shared parking arrangement.

[27] His response was that he was “not sure of what other options were pursued” but only knew of the option to use part of the CN Rail lands north of the RJCHC but understood that they were not available. He did not provide any specific details concerning their unavailability.

[28] I also asked about details concerning the lease agreement with Mr. Hotz, the owner of the 640 lot and from whom the subject properties would be similarly leased. Mr. Fothergill had not seen the lease. This evidence arose when Mr. Fothergill was recalled as part of HHSC’s Reply case.

[29] Ms. Campbell testified following Mr. Fothergill; she was the last witness in HHSC’s Reply case. She explained that the hospital had in fact approached other landowners surrounding the subject property with a view to entering into a shared parking arrangement but the logistics did not work given the hospital’s needs.

[30] Specifically she mentioned that a neighbouring church was approached given that its parking lot remained empty on occasion but the church required its parking not only on Sundays, but on certain days during the week, so this arrangement would not be suitable.

[31] Ms. Campbell also explained that the lease agreement with Mr. Hotz provided for termination on notice with no penalty provisions whatsoever.

[32] I accept the hospital’s evidence on its need for additional parking. What I did not get was how the proposed lots targeted to satisfy this need should be preferred over other parcels, options or shared parking arrangements in the vicinity. I appreciate that the parking garage option is simply too expensive and as such, not practical.

[33] The subject properties are located adjacent to existing residential neighbourhoods. What was lacking in the planning rationale from HHSC was the justification for this intrusion into the residential area in light of the Setting Sail policy which requires a sensitive and compatible approach to existing neighbourhoods.

[34] I did not receive from HHSC a comprehensive review of parking supply and availability in the area. I received evidence from Mr. Fothergill wherein he reviewed six sites including the proposal before me and of those six sites, four were located on lands within the Hamilton Hospital campus (Victoria Street parking garage, RJCHC on-site parking, 293 Wellington and 215 Barton on-site parking connected with the Wellness Health Building located at 293 Wellington) and the remaining two are those owned by Mr. Hotz (the 640 lot and the subject properties) [see Exhibit 3, Tab 1D, pg. 26].

[35] No expert review or analysis was done of available off-site parking other than that owned by Mr. Hotz. With respect, this myopic approach was not helpful.

[36] I accept Mr. Davidson’s opinion that the proposal did not respect policy A.6.3.2.2 of Setting Sail which stipulated: “As changes in West Harbour continue, both on the water and in the neighbourhoods, it is important to: i) ensure new development respects and enhances the character of the neighbourhoods” and “ iii) encourage compatible development on abandoned, vacant and under-utilized land ..” [see Exhibit 1, Tab 20, pg. 538].

[37] To establish the need for parking is just one step. To rationalize and provide a planning justification to identify the location to fulfill the need is the next step. To simply suggest that the two parcels before me are a logical extension to the existing parking lot is not sufficient.

[38] Mr. Davidson raised these concerns in his evidence and opined that the hospital’s operational needs should not surpass the policy direction with respect to the interface between the proposed parking lot and the adjacent residential uses. I accept and prefer Mr. Davidson’s opinions in this regard.

COMPATIBILITY

[39] This takes me to the third theme of this hearing and that is that the proposed redevelopment is not compatible with the surrounding residential uses.

[40] The first ground of incompatibility is the physical difference in grade elevation from the proposed parking on the Robert lot to the existing homes along Cathcart and Robert.

[41] The uncontroverted evidence was that a 1.8 metres (“m”) retaining wall with a 1.8 m fence currently exists along the edge of the 640 lot where it meets with Cathcart and the Robert lot. Cars parking in the 640 lot adjacent to the retaining wall and fence at this location are significantly elevated from Cathcart at the intersection of Robert.

[42] Impacts of noise, pollution and headlights would presumably be mitigated by the same measures used for the 640 lot, namely a narrow landscape strip and privacy mesh woven into the chain-link fence above the retaining wall. This, in my estimation, is not acceptable nor does not carry forward the intent of the Setting Sail policy which directs new development to “enhance” the character of the neighbourhood.

[43] I heard from Mr. Davidson that the area is one of transition and while in the past, undesirable industrial uses may have existed in this area, it is changing and changing for the better. This was confirmed by my own site visits.

[44] I accept Mr. Conway’s characterization of this neighbourhood that there may be a stigma associated with it. As he put it, the purchase of a house is typically the largest investment one makes and this area is just not at the point where one would make such a large purchase, at least not for another 20 years or so.

[45] However, Mr. Conway could not explain why a new residential apartment-style building was being constructed at 220 Cannon Street. This construction is approximately one block to the south of the Robert lot and a half-block to the south-east of the Ferguson lot.

[46] Hence I accept Mr. Conway’s description of the area but I do not accept his prognosis that the area will not experience a demand for residential development for approximately 20 years. The development at 220 Cannon Street is a concrete example of the demand which currently exist in this area.

STERILIZATION OF PARCELS

[47] Mr. Davidson suggested that by permitting the parking lot use to be established, the parcels would become sterilized for their intended use in future. Perhaps the term “sterilize” is too extreme but certainly, by establishing a parking lot in these two locations means that in the future, should these parcels redevelop for residential uses, a potential developer will bear the added expense of removing all, most or some of the infrastructure associated with the parking lot.

[48] While this may not “sterilize” the parcels, it does potentially pose another obstacle before the intended use, as identified in Setting Sail, is realized. On this point, I cannot agree that the proposed development serves the broader public interest.

USE OF VACANT OR UNDERUTILIZED PARCELS

[49] There was no dispute that the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement (“PPS”) encourages the use of vacant or under-utilized parcels, particularly when they are located in urban areas and have existing infrastructure, specifically municipal services.

[50] I heard from Mr. Fothergill that this redevelopment was consistent with the PPS because it sought to do exactly what is directed by provincial policy. Mr. Davidson, however, agreed with the thrust of the policy but explained that there must be a sensitive and critical analysis done.

[51] In other words, while the proposal does make use of existing vacant and underutilized parcels, it cannot do so at the expense of the incompatibility which it creates. I agree. A balance must be achieved and in this case, the intrusion into the surrounding residential neighbourhood with an incompatible use does not strike an appropriate equilibrium.

[52] While I agree that the hospital provides a necessary public service, ensuring its employees have adequate parking in order to provide that service is an operational issue which the hospital is obligated to address. The shuttling of employees is not ideal but remedying this unfortunate circumstance should not come at the expense of the surrounding neighbourhood.

ORDER

[53] For these reasons, the Board orders that the appeals are dismissed.

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.

45 Comments

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 06:43:32

Excellent result! Thank you to everyone (including the City and Councillor Farr) who devoted so much time and effort to defend a positive vision for the community.

ONE aspect was missing in the ruling. The need for parking for EVERY employee was assumed implicitly. Why wasn't this challenged?

McMaster has been much more successful in demand management with many carpooling, taking the bus or cycling. Has HHS done anything to encourage transit, cycling or carpooling? Have they tried increasing parking rates for employees? Surely a lot of employees could do something other tHan drive by themselves and then take a 15 minute shuttle bus ride!

They could park in a more distant lot and take a sobi for example. Is hhs sponsoring sobi passes (like McMaster) or bus passes? Or do they only susidize driving?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 13:17:14 in reply to Comment 117004

I challenged this directly in my participant statement. Whether that did not get mentioned in the decision because (1) these points were only made by a citizen participant, not an expert witness in transportation planning, (2) there were enough other reasons to reject the appeal, so the OMB member just didn't mention it, or (3) the OMB member agreed with HHS' implied argument that every employee needs a parking spot -- very hard to say.

It would have been nice if the ruling had explicitly addressed transportation demand management, but the much more important thing is that we won.

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 09:35:14 in reply to Comment 117004

even with the subsidization of alternative transportation i highly doubt there would be much uptake. the general is serviced by one bus line, the 2 barton. this bus is awful for many reasons, but worst of all is that it is unreliable and so very slow.

the general is located between 2 high speed one way streets that services large numbers of heavy vehicle traffic (trucks going to and from the north end. neither street i would ever bike on. east-west you can take barton, which is awful for biking infrastructure. best bet would be to use the cannon lane to ferguson, park it there and walk. essentially you are where a parking spot would be at that point.

carpooling would be great but then if we could figure that out the 403 and QEW wouldn't be full of single-person cars crawling their way to toronto daily.

increasing parking rates for employees isn't going to help much. if there is no other reasonable options to get to work it will just cost individuals more to get to work. employee parking is a taxable benefit and it's one way that HHS remains competitive relative to other organizations in terms of benefit packages.

the final point i will make is that the general is not perceived as the safest place to be around, and there is some validity to that statement. purse and phone snatchings are pretty common, and if you want staff to wait for a bus/use bikes/walk from work, you have to provide individuals with the sense of personal safety. the city has absolutely no interest in doing anything down barton st so i don't see this trend changing.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 15, 2016 at 13:26:05 in reply to Comment 117006

The 2 Barton is one of the highest-frequency buses in the system... possibly the highest frequency single line since the various 5s and 1s are somewhat balkanized. Yes, it stops extremely frequently, bunches together and misses its schedule, and what nobody wants to admit is that they don't use it because it's fully of sketchy people.

But the city dedicates a tremendous amount of buses to that route.

As for cycling, I bike here almost daily. The Cannon track gets you close, but the problem is that the new parking-lot on Wellington is difficult to navigate from Ferguson, Victoria's northbound-only bike lane starts at Barton and not Cannon (why not???) and whoever keeps putting Barton on the city's cycling maps has taken a vacation from reality.

I would describe cycling as "almost doable".

Long term the city will have to think about a north-south bus there, since there will be a B-line LRT stop at Victoria (currently one of the larger gaps in the B-line express) and the 12-Wentworth is a joke.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2016-03-15 13:26:47

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By stone (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:33:20 in reply to Comment 117006

While it's no James, with even a cursory look at Barton on Google street view from 2007 you can see that it's has dramatically improved. Also the hospital did itself no favours when it killed a block by building right up to the sidewalk between West and Wellington. You are right about Cannon, it cuts Barton off. With the arterial East/West streets being one way lots of areas suffer. I know RaiseTheHAmmer gets lots of flack for being anti-car, but seriously, who are the people that want these one way streets?

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 11:55:58 in reply to Comment 117014

i've worked in that area (and at the general itself) on and off since '08 and it has not really improved much. maybe from "awful" to "very bad" but it is really an area that seems to be overlooked when considering how to improve the city. (see also: main east)

it's a med-high density corridor with 2 way streets (a good portion of which have nice medians for traffic calming) that could have excellent public and active transit infrastructure with some investment. it could even connect easily to go transit at both ends of the city.

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By stone (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 13:21:45 in reply to Comment 117018

The old chicken and the egg cycle, the hospital says they should be able to put parking there because it's crappy, and yet it's crappy there because it's just a sea of parking.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:31:03 in reply to Comment 117006

Another alternative if the #2 bus is so bad: take one of the many, many Main St buses and walk (or SoBi) the 1km to the hospital. There's a sobi rack right at Main and Wellington and another at the hospital: it would take just a few minutes. Lots of hospital workers park (for free) outside my house and walk the 800 m to St Joe's.

And they are apparently willing to spend an extra 30-45 minutes to take the Dofasco shuttle!

It is just not true there are no other options to commuting alone in a car and raising prices would help manage demand by encouraging more workers to consider them.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-03-15 10:32:20

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 11:46:59 in reply to Comment 117013

wellington runs n>s so it isn't really an option for cycling. again, it's a horrible street for biking and as we have seen from statistics, people will not even be willing to try cycling if they do not feel comfortable with doing so.

you are approaching this from the perspective that everyone who works at HHS lives in the downtown core. if you are not on the king corridor those buses are of no help and 1km of distance from the stop to the final destination is not acceptable if you expect a large change in behaviour.

ideally if you want transit use down this corridor you would add an express bus down barton to help alleviate some of the issues on the number 2 and put a separated bike lane all the way down victoria from the clairmont access. might as well add a bus that goes down from the mountain on this route and terminates near the hospital.

while we are at it might as well add a field for grazing unicorns accented with a gold fountain of champagne where this parking lot was going to be because this is the post of things that will never happen in hamilton

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By Megan (registered) | Posted March 16, 2016 at 08:03:29 in reply to Comment 117017

Even if people want to drive there are already more than enough surface spots in the area and walking or Sobi-ing from these lots would be faster than a 30-45 minute shuttle from the Dofasco lot.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 12:06:38 in reply to Comment 117017

I'm talking about anyone who has access to HSR near their home (say 5-10 minute walk) and could get to the Main/King bus with one change.

This is a huge portion of the city, not just those "who live downtown".

I admit I am taking the point of view of someone who is willing to ride the bus rather than drive, but HHS could do a lot of things to encourage transit use instead of encouraging driving (like subsidizing passes and working with HSR, maybe providing funding like MSU does).

Regarding SoBi, why not cycle down West Avenue? That's a nice quiet street. Wouldn't you take that rather than Wellington, especially as it is two way?

Again, I'm not talking about "everyone" or those who live in Jerseyville or Milton. I'm talking about those who:

(a) Live within 5km who could walk/cycle easily.

(b) Live within 5-10km who could cycle.

(c) Could take the Main/King or 2 buses with a maximum of one change.

(d) Could carpool.

McMaster's survey tried to break down employees/students into these different groups to see the potential for reducing single car commuters. There is surely huge potential at HHS for people in one of these five categories to stop driving alone, or drive less.

Here's another suggestion: give people reduced parking rates for a certain number of days a month (say 5) if they agree to give up a monthly pass. That would deal with those days driving is the only reasonable option.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-03-15 12:11:33

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 14:08:32 in reply to Comment 117019

West Avenue would be far more useful if it had traffic lights at Main, Wilson, Cannon, and Barton. (I can't remember whether it has one at King.) Right now it is an unusable bike route.

But HHS has some agency here. They could build a bike route through their lot north of Barton, crossing Wellington at Copeland Avenue. That would link to Cannon via Ferguson. Or they could expend some effort asking the city to improve transit and bicycle access -- just as they have spent a large amount of money and staff time fighting the city and the neighborhood over this parking lot at the OMB.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 15:52:56 in reply to Comment 117027

I applaud you for your advocacy in this matter, your character and composure brought real credibility to the issue for many. Congratulations.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 14:54:17 in reply to Comment 117027

That is the point I'm trying to make: if HHS put the same time, effort and money into improving cycling and transit options and managing parking demand as they do into trying to ensure parking for every staff member things would be much better.

What if they spent the $100k per year they now spend on the shuttle on cycling and pedestrian improvements, or used some of it to fund bus passes or work with HSR to improve service?

At the Big Cities talk at the downtown health centre in the Fall the head of the McConnell foundation emphasized that big publicly funded institutions (e.g. hospitals, universities, school boards) have a special responsibility to use their power, influence and spending to benefit the local community. If HHS pushed for better cycling, walking and transit options near the General it would also provide big benefits for the residents of this relatively poor and vulnerable community.

McMaster and MSU have put quite a bit of effort into studying transportation and encouraging non-driving (notably the MSU bus pass, the carpool incentives and providing a relatively small amount of parking). Universities and Hospitals are not such dissimilar institutions ... in fact there are often hospitals on university campuses and hospitals often use a "campus" model.

p.s. Good point that West is difficult due to the various unsignalized arterial crossings.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 15:59:45 in reply to Comment 117028

our health sciences have become a dangerous place to be a patient with preventable deaths on the rise at 2 separate locations. Until they can address their core competencies I see no reason to have any confidence in "community building" We need to look elsewhere for champions and continue to provide close scrutiny to any initiative coming from HHSC.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:14:12 in reply to Comment 117006

Imagine if everyone actually drove ...

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:12:05 in reply to Comment 117006

But have they even tried?

Does HHS offer subsidized bus passes? SoBi? Reduced rates and special spots for car pooling? Have they thought of working with HSR to improve service (spend $100k annually on improved HSR service rather than shuttles and extra parking)?

McMaster has only 4400 parking spots for almost 40,000 students and staff (about 30,000 students and 7000 staff). HHS could do a lot more (i.e. more than nothing) in incentivizing alternative transportation and disincenitiving (i.e. reduce subsidies) driving.

A hospital should prioritize other ways to be competitive on benefits than promoting a polluting, dangerous and inactive way to get to work!

See the carpool policy at McMaster:

http://www.mcmaster.ca/sustainability/at...

Where is the HHS carpool incentive? At McMaster 24% of those who drive carpool.

"According to the survey, 76% of the respondents commute to campus in a personal vehicle are by themselves, while 24% are carpooling. "

https://www.mcmaster.ca/sustainability/d...

Surely HHS could achieve similar percentages: this has nothing to do with bus service, or the perception of the area. According to smartcommute less than 1% of HHS employees carpool http://smartcommute.ca/hamilton/current_...

I don't think they've tried any of this.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-03-15 10:20:35

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By Angela (registered) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 07:41:07 in reply to Comment 117009

Hospitals are the leading cause of death - this is a "dead zone" - and more asphalt/parking would make it bigger. We need better transit - clean the city - trees, gardens, healing centers. forbes.com/sites/leahbinder/2013/04/09/the-most-dangerous-place-in-the-world/

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By stone (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 08:48:52

Hamilton General may have the most parking for a hospital that I have ever seen anywhere, but it sounds like it's days of surface lot sprawl are over. If I had to guess, I would say the old Studebaker lot may be the parking North of the tracks that did not work out.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 09:58:45

Very pleased with the OMB decision. Grateful to the OMB member for recognizing the underlying problem with the parking lot expansion ... that it would undermine the vision of the area's secondary plan (Setting Sail), which for this area, a brownfield site, is to become a mixed-use area.

[18] The matter before me is a second attempt by HHSC to deviate from the policies of Setting Sail. On this point, I agree with the residents in this area that what in fact is occurring is an incremental “chipping away” of the broader vision identified for this stable albeit fragile neighbourhood.

[19] For this reason, I cannot support the proposed site-specific OPA and ZBA as in my estimation, this does not reflect good planning nor is it in the public interest.

Also, the parking lot was said to be an interim use, but the lease between HHSC and Hotz (the land owner) was for 20 years. The site specific OPA and ZBA allowing the parking as a permitted use would be permanent ... it would require a future amendment to remove the parking lot as a permitted use.

The larger question is the overall impact of surface parking lots on urbanism. In the North End Neighbours' participant statement we referenced Jane Jacobs' comments on the deadening impact of giving over more and more space in cities to the car.

Our concern is best summarized by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “[I]f accommodations for huge numbers of cars get first consideration … other city uses get the leftovers. A strategy of erosion by automobiles is thus not only destructive to such city intensity as already exists; it also conflicts with nurturing new or additional intensity of use where that is needed.”

The unfortunate realization for me -- gleaned from testimony by HHSC execs at the hearings -- is that a major institution responsible for healthcare in our community doesn't see itself as being in a position offer strong leadership in moving us away from a "driven to drive" mentality in infrastructure investment.

I hope that the ruling will prompt some rethinking on that last point. It would be nice to see the next round involve the City, the NAs/residents of the area, and HHSC working together to find a better solution.

And to quote a fellow North Ender:

The badger digs in and wins. Congratulations Beasley, an important win for all the residents of Ward 2. Be Proud!

And a special thanks to Councillor Farr. He has been supportive of the BNA stance on holding the line on surface parking lots and was unwavering in seeing this thru.

Comment edited by RobF on 2016-03-15 10:11:49

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:06:30

One of the key practices in medicine is, “Do no harm.” Yet Hamilton’s Public Health Department reports that motor vehicle operators poison and kill 93 people in Hamilton each year, with children being disproportionately vulnerable to being poisoned and killed.

Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre is an important part of the HHS expansion.
I do not understand how medical health professionals can be so vicious as to launch lethal cancer poison attacks upon innocent children in their care. This is “Doing great harm.” I can only hope and pray that some measure of conscience and humanity will return and that these people will stop poisoning and killing innocent children.

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By preindustrial (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 13:42:55 in reply to Comment 117008

why anyone who gets as apoplectic as you do would live in any post industrial community anywhere between chicago and new york is beyond me. swimming upstream as opposed to living in Alaska must drive you nuts.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 15:18:23 in reply to Comment 117026

What's beyond me is why you seem so offended that KevinLove points out how many people are killed every year from vehicle exhaust. Maybe you should be more concerned about all those people being poisoned to death.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 16:30:38 in reply to Comment 117031

I think what might offend some people is that he is taking the low road by sensationalizing an issue instead of relaying the simple factual evidence. We are all poisoning innocent children? Give me an effing break.

There are few better ways to discredit and weaken an argument than by using this kind of hyperbole. You sure this isn't Terry?

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By Wosers (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:23:45 in reply to Comment 117008

Hopefully the administrators at HHS read this blog!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 11:23:36 in reply to Comment 117011

Good point. I need to take pen and paper in hand and write to them and to the Board of Directors of HHS.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 14:56:06 in reply to Comment 117015

Make sure you mention the lethal cancer poison attacks against innocent children. Maybe throw in some tailpipe sucking too!

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By move the hopital (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 11:25:07

if I was in of those people who had to lose 45 minutes out of my day I would seek other employment.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 12:28:01 in reply to Comment 117016

It's 30-45 minutes, and no one is forcing anyone to make that choice. Free parking isn't a right, it's an option, and there are lots of other options the hospital and its staff can choose.

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By per day (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 13:39:26 in reply to Comment 117020

45 minutes a day sure adds up over a lifetime. people who have nothing better to do can go work there,

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By RobF (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 22:59:33 in reply to Comment 117025

Lots of people choose to drive 45 minutes or more to and from work each day for various reasons ... that adds up over a lifetime. What's your point.

I don't think the situation is ideal. But let's compare apples to apples. Employees need to walk from just north of Cannon and Ferguson to wherever they work north of Barton for HHSC if they use the proposed new lot off Ferguson ... a little less for the Robert Lot.

Depending on where exactly they work on the campus for the Ferguson lot that is 400-700 metres and an approximately 8-10 minute walk. The temporary parking lot is 3 km and according to Google Maps is a 8 minute drive without traffic or a 15 minute HSR ride on the 2.

So the real issue is waiting time and the convenience of nearby parking ... think about that. And it comes at the expense of transit ridership and possible assessment growth. If I understood right at the hearing, the city goes from receiving minimal property tax revenue from Hotz (the landowner) for the two sites now to absolutely none for 20 years, because the land will be considered used and occupied by a public hospital. Think about that for the larger area of existing surface lots, and the taxes not being paid on land that is supposed to develop into a mix of commercial and residential uses.

I value the hospital, but this surface parking expansion is not a great deal for nearby residents or Hamilton taxpayers. But yes, I heard loud and clear that it is needed for operational reasons ... so employees could drive to work and park. That's a want, not a need. See the above comments about parking on McMaster's campus.

Comment edited by RobF on 2016-03-15 23:05:30

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 15:16:17 in reply to Comment 117025

It's 30-45 minutes, and no one is being forced to wait around for a shuttle bus in exchange for free parking.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 12:51:45

First off, to reply to an earlier Q, yes, the HHS Execs I've spoken to read my earlier piece from last year, and I suspect they have also read this story and its comments.

Second, an observation: Along with the one or two above, I've seen a number of comments on the media stories about the OMB decision that seem to clearly come from disgruntled hospital workers angry that their seamless driveway-to-driveway commute experience is disrupted.

The scorn and insults heaped upon Beasley is explicit in these comments--not just implied as in the initial HHS plan to make their operational parking issue OUR community's problem. I should be inured to this garbage by now, but it still surprises me when I hear this complete disregard for residents, as if the only worthy people within 1km of Barton & Ferguson are the health care professionals lucky enough to work for HHS.

I really hope the published decision, especially the final point [52] makes it obvious that the expressed "my parking is your problem" attitudes are retrograde, elitist, and completely out of whack with the planning goal of creating a complete, healthy & liveable community downtown.

HHS can be a great neighbour. HHS already contributes to the Beasley community. A children's centre in Beasley is something to be proud about.

But if the well-remunerated health care professionals who commute from parts afar to the General can't understand that their workspace exists in our living space, then I'm not sure what Beasley residents get out of this abusive relationship. Jobs? As we already know, this was a problem created by people NOT living where they work. Prestige? Apparently the hospital isn't enough to save our 'hood from being bulldozed, as one thoughtful CBC commenter suggested, or generally paved over.

So what do Beasley residents get, if we can't defend our vision for the area? Believe me, an A&W and a Tim Horton's just doesn't cut it.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 18:17:08

Congratulations to Beasley for fighting the good fight!

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By stone (registered) | Posted March 15, 2016 at 19:03:29

Just imagine if all the people who work at Hamilton General bought houses in Beasley how quickly the neighbourhood would improve and how few parking spaces would be needed!

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By yeah (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2016 at 05:07:55 in reply to Comment 117037

Then watch this place explode with cries of "gentrification"

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted March 16, 2016 at 07:06:46

This whole situation is no big surprise when you consider the realities of parking and hospitals. Administration sees it as a revenue source. The staff view it as perk. Very few medical staff for example want to bike or take transit home after working 12 hour shifts that, regularly stretch to 14. Most of the medical staff also usually have shift changes when transit is either not operating at peak service, or at all. The wages most hospital workers get, though not all hospital workers, make them for the most part non transit dependent. My wife is a nurse who used to work at a hospital, very few of the staff want to be around non medical people, when they are travelling home after a long shift. Let alone bike halfway across the city. As my wife would say about transit, "whinny, smelly people and their families are not what I want to be going home with, after treating the same people for 12-14 hours at work!" This may sound harsh but it is mainly due to the fact that, when you poured all your compassion, caring and sympathy out to patients and their families for the last 12-14 hours, there is usually very little left for anyone else when the shift is over. For a few hours anyway.

Its was also no surprise to me that here in Ottawa a few years ago, the Ottawa General Hospital Campus had less than 50 employees show up to an in house information night and display (over 2 separate days), when O.C. Transpo wanted Hospital worker feed back about putting in a potential Transitway and station in the empty land that surrounds the north and eastern boundary of their Campus. This would have made the Ottawa General Campus an easy to get to location for everyone working and visiting there. Literally, almost 24 hours a day rapid transit access. Compared to the nightmare traffic conditions it normally has, especially during peak hours, using the local roads.

This is no minor healthcare operation. The Campus includes the location of not only the Ottawa General Hospital. It also includes Eastern Ottawa's largest Cancer Treatment Centre, The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre, The Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre, The National Defense Medical Centre and Rideau Pearly Veterans Home, one of the largest seniors homes in the Ottawa area. Not to mention, the area's Ronald McDonald House, Rogers House and the Civitan House for Families. It also has the main location of the University of Ottawa's Medical School and Degree Nursing Program. Both, the only Bilingual schools of their type in Ontario. So it definitely has a high number of potentially interested employees. Yet, very few showed up to even take a look. When asked, the Hospital administration was surprised that O.C. Transpo would even ask employees because they believed almost everyone drove to work or lives so close to the campus that, they just walk here. The concept that staff or anyone for that matter, would actually bike to the Campus, especially during Ottawa's winter, was a complete surprise suggestion to the administration.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 16, 2016 at 08:31:35

Walking or SOBI'ing from one of Beasley's MANY surface lots is the most obvious solution to this problem. Make availability of parking employees' problem to solve, not the province/city/neighbourhood's.

But if I'm hearing Haveacow right, there is a deeply entrenched sense of entitlement held by (some) medical professionals that really is regrettable and myopic.

Y'know, for every exhausted health care professional finishing off a well-remunerated 12hr shift in a relatively secure job who heads back to the suburbs, there's at least one equally exhausted downtowner coming back from an underpaid, insecure job that might barely pay for the house existing on the fringe of a parking lot.

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 17, 2016 at 15:40:15 in reply to Comment 117042

it's nice to be able to nitpick the part of a comment that supports your argument.

haveacow is exactly right when presenting the choices of healthcare workers in terms of transit. transit sucks on off peak hours, when many healthcare workers start and end shifts. on peak schedules the bus service is not very good to this location, and people propose a 1 km walk/bike to perhaps mitigate this a bit. now consider what happens on a weekend night. your commute suddenly has skyrocketed, and good luck if you don't end your shift right on time and get out to the stop. miss one bus and you may be stuck waiting 30 mins for the next one. have a connecting bus? well...

lets say you get on the ol' number 2 on time. it's packed again! you can spend your ride listening to 15 different people screaming into their cell phones. you make every single stop and it takes forever. it's probably insanely hot (always so hot...)

you can avoid all that if you take a sobi or walk down to/from main or king. the bike racks are usually well stocked there fortunately. this had pitfalls related to the crappy bike infrastructure we have already noted, but also worsens with winter.

taking a sobi from a distant parking lot works for the first 5 people who get the bikes i guess. there are not many stations in this area compared to the core. i think walking is just fine and people should do this but there is a fear (much of which is unjustified, some of it is) of doing so at night.

i'm not defending building more parking lots, this decision was the correct one and i applaud these efforts. i never drove to the general when i worked there, but i can understand most people would. it's not the problem of HHS, why should they be expected to invest in public infrastructure and advocacy to any greater extent than the developers who are making boatloads of cash from the "renaissance" of the city? how does it make business sense for them to remove benefits that attract staff to work at their sites? unfortunately that is how hospitals run, business-like. blame capitalism i guess.

has hhs contributed to the car-centric environment of this neighbourhood? yes. has the city shown any efforts to mitigate this through increasing transit infrastructure and capacity along this very popular route? not really. i think the blame game is useless and unproductive, unless we blame the city and their devotion to auto-centric planning.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 12:27:32 in reply to Comment 117046

Blame? I certainly resent that selfish, entitled attitude you expressed, but thankfully the OMB found that it's up to the HHS to address their employees' petty gripes, not me and my neighbours. The City & residents defended a plan that is categorically NOT auto-centric, now it's up to HHS to integrate their recruitment and retention strategy (again, their problem, not ours) with the planning reality that not every HHS employee is entitled to a personal auto-storage space in our living space.

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 16:25:59 in reply to Comment 117051

you seem to enjoy personally insulting people in comments for no particular reason, which is unpleasant and detracts from productive conversation. please discontinue doing so.

the point i was making, which you seemed to completely miss, is that regardless of the outcome of this appeal the options for alternate transit to the hgh general site are poor and there will be little incentive for individuals to change their behaviour. it's great that the blight of another parking lot is avoided, but the cars that would have parked here are going to be parking on side streets or in other lots in the area unless the city actually develops the infrastructure to support getting workers to and from this area efficiently

developing good transit is seen as a strategy for drawing businesses and workers to an area, so i don't really see how it is merely the problem of hgh that the public and active transit options in that area are poor. a large institution like hgh, that employs people across different skill and education profiles with high paying careers, is a great asset to the community. providing good active and public transit options will draw people to not only work there, but also to consider hamilton as a place to live and raise a family. integrating the west harbour go into any service enhancements could be a good draw also if the timings were worked out well. when you have actual good transit then you can start with to incentivize its use as suggested earlier

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 15:37:06 in reply to Comment 117051

you acknowledge you have no business in the matter (mot my problem) yet continue to insinuate your way into the conversation. Concerned only about your own personal agenda defines you as selfish. Selfish and resentful is not what most would consider a good neighbor.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:10:12 in reply to Comment 117056

That doesn't even make any sense, Jim, but thanks for coming out!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 14:27:06

I will now point out that there is a fully protected cycling route through the alleys of Hamilton from Downtown to Hamilton General Hospital. See my latest article on the Jane’s Ride that I will lead on May 7 which will do just that.

This alley route also bypasses all traffic lights. Depending on how fast one wants to ride, it will take a not-so-whopping 10-15 minutes to travel from Downtown to HGH. Where one can put a lot of bike parking into a small area.

For someone living downtown, riding a bicycle is by far the fastest means of travelling to Hamilton General Hospital. In many cases, the entire travel time is less than it takes for a car driver to walk from a car parking lot to the Hospital. All it really requires is maintaining the infrastructure: Fixing or installing the alley paving, clearing snow and providing bike parking. All of which is far, far cheaper than the status quo or any alternative.

Fastest, cheapest, easiest, most convenient… what’s not to like?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 14:35:34 in reply to Comment 117052

Hear hear!

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