This private patio is supposed to be public space

First let me say this: I love patios. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, the hot waft of a garbage truck barreling down the street. It’s all part of the glory of summer in Toronto.

But I do have a bone to pick with a patio that is currently occupied by La Carnita/Sweet Jesus on John Street just south of Adelaide. My bone?

It’s supposed to be a public space. As in no fence around the edge. As in I don’t need to buy something to sit there. You know, open to everyone?

Kind of like how it was before:

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 3.37.38 PM

What makes this extra annoying is that King-Spadina is one of the densest, rapidly-growing, open space poor neighbourhoods in the entire city. The fact that we created a public space (however itty bitty) and then had it taken away so people could eat over-priced (but Instagrammable) ice cream cones is just the pits. We need all the slivers of public space we can carve out in this city, especially in the downtown, and especially especially in King-Spadina.

How did this happen?

The space is meant as a POPS (privately-owned publicly accessible space). These are spaces created through the development process in Toronto where developers get extra goodies (height, maybe, or chocolate) in exchange for creating and maintaining publicly-accessible open spaces on their property. We have a ton of these in Toronto, many of them in the Financial District. (My favourite POPS is the TD Centre “pasture” where all those lovely cows like to hang out all day). Here’s a map.

In fact, the approval for the building included a condition that the developer provide this publicly-accessible open space. It’s pretty clear:

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 3.26.42 PMWhoops.

So turning this space into a private patio for a business is basically the opposite of what is supposed to be happening here.

It also highlights the challenges of using POPS as ways to create “public space” in highly dense, rapidly developing areas. It’s an attractive tool for the City for sure–you get some new public space and you don’t even need to maintain it!

But hiccups like this show why we need to be cautious with these spaces, and why we certainly don’t want them ever to be seen as a substitute for a publicly owned park or plaza. One clear example of this was highlighted on a Jane’s Walk I went on two years ago (led by City Staff) where we were approached by two security guards as we stood in a POPS to talk about it. These are still, ultimately, privately-owned spaces.

I contacted Councillor Joe Cressy’s office to ask about this and was told by his staff that he’s aware of the issue, does not approve of what’s happening, and has instructed the city’s legal staff to look into it. Hopefully we can expect some action soon.

Yes, patios are cool. But we can’t let these things slide if we’re going to protect the spaces that we’ve managed to create for the public to use. Tear down the fence, people.

photo of the space without the fence was nabbed from Alex Bozikovic’s Twitter feed

18 thoughts on “This private patio is supposed to be public space

  1. I feel like their legal team will argue that the patio is still “publicly accessible” and “open” despite the fence and tables and that there is nothing to prevent the public from using the patio without buying ice cream…so lame


  2. Yeah get rid of the fence. No reason for it – that space could be like a modern Piazza della Madonna dei Monti in Rome. A small space where peeps buy drinks from surrounding bars/bistros and sit and socialize by the fountain. It gets quite busy on a Friday night. Ok maybe a bit of a stretch – but same idea…..,12.4907207,3a,75y,83.25h,78.29t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sOIdB0uXw6lM8PWre5_iNbQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone that runs a theology/volunteerism blog and lives in the Prairies of Canada I can’t say much about Toronto issues but I can say this is an incredibly well-written and articulated piece 🙂

    Definitely deserves one of the top blog spots on wordpress which it is listed as at this time 🙂


  4. If they’ve fenced it off and put it out of bound to general public then that’s gotta be a clear violation of the POP agreement in their contract. Would it not? This sort of stuff is what makes this city a challenge..


  5. The list of POPS on the City’s website (linked from the article) lists this one as a “future POPS”. So perhaps there are plans to open it up to the public and it just hasn’t happened yet?


  6. Simple test: go and sit there without buying anything. Do they tell you to leave?

    What did they get for making it public space? Can their Certificate of Occupancy (or whatever the appropriate legal term is) be revoked for violating the agreement?


    1. I’ve been told by multiple people that yes they do get asked to leave. The developer likely got extra density for the building & yes the City is pursuing legal action. Chief planner says the fence was “illegally erected”


    2. Yes they do tell you to leave. A group of residents tried to go down and enjoy the space and we were told that if we weren’t purchasing food we had to leave. We refused telling them that this was a POPS and that we had every right to sit there. We also told them that our city councillor Joe Cressy had also informed us that the permit for the fence and patio were wrongly issued and that we had every right to sit there. They then told us that they had bought the furniture not the city so we couldn’t sit on it. We obliged and sat on the granite blocks around the tables. The next day there was a sign put out by La Carnita/Sweet Jesus saying no one is allowed to sit on the granite blocks.


      1. Wow. Talk about being bad neighbours. Is the condo board pushing the property management company at all? It just seems outrageous to me. Good for you for pushing them by showing up. Would be great to get it on video and shame them. I mean sweet Jesus is an Instagram sensation. Why not flood them with negative posts. They obviously don’t care about rules so hit them where it hurts.


      2. Update: With the negative press over the last few days , LaCarnita has now posted a sign saying anyone is welcome to come and sit and enjoy the space…very hypocritical!


  7. And I would ask – when? Christmas? Because it is still there and I was still told to move on by security at 6 pm last night.


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