Just as subway riders are forced to get used to being jammed in like sardines, city dwellers have to accept the fact that more people are packing Toronto.
On the TTC, the only place to go is into someone else's rib cage; and the only place the city can give new Torontonians to live is progressively higher buildings.
A gaggle of urban planning students, their professional brethren and that ubiquitous group known as "concerned citizens" packed the St. Lawrence Centre a couple of weeks back to hear the requisite deferential references to Manhattan and Chicago.
Hong Kong also got props for its blend of Old World alleyways and visually arresting architectural behemoths (although that city lacks the sidewalk cafés I've come to love so much here).
The night began with the city's chief planner, Ted Tyndorf, giving a brief history of Toronto's planning policies before motoring headlong into left and right jabs from development lawyer Steve Diamond, community activist Mimi Fullerton and noted urban planner Tony Coombes. All took shots at how the planning department has shaped Toronto's skyline in recent years.
"Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods," Tyndorf sputtered, before handing the mic over to Diamond, who earned a chorus of groans by joking that it was the nicest thing Tyndorf had done for him in a long time.
Diamond, who has battled city council and the OMB on projects such as Transformation AGO and the Trump Tower, appealed to tall-building-phobes.
"There's a misconception," Diamond intoned. "Developers are not creating demand. It's a growth thing, and this growth has to be accommodated.
"What we're finding is that when we go to the communities, people fixate only on the height without looking at the project."
Community activist Fullerton, who spoke at length last fall against the proposed 46-storey ROM condo that has since gone six feet under, says the city is working with "the wrong paradigm."
"There is currently a paradigm guiding thinking in some media, our communities and perhaps even political circles, that developers serve intensification goals while neighbourhoods resist them. The correct paradigm is one in which the central question is how best to achieve appropriate intensification."
Urban planner Coombes then took over and described the current process, in which the OMB rules on appeals against council decisions, as "opportunistic, arbitrary and unconscionable." Tyndorf, who sat passively next to the rostrum most of the night, looked more pained with every adjective.
But even he had to chuckle when Coombes added, "The city's planning staff is undermanned and outgunned, with no effective policy guidance, having to stick their wetted fingers in the air."
Coombes did take the time to praise the East Bayfront plan (for the waterfront from Jarvis to Parliament) for putting high buildings only at its perimeter.
But about the only other praise Tyndorf came in for was from downtown councillor Kyle Rae, who some would say has never met a condo development he doesn't like.
Rae raved about Radio City on Mutual Street, claiming that "the derelict CBC lands have been transformed into a beautiful community."
"The people in Toronto have to recognize that change is coming, and I think we can manage it, but you have to be open to change," he said.
Mayor David Miller, who rose from his press gallery seat way before the end of the discussion and was the first to comment on the forum, talked about achieving balance with green space.
"I live in High Park. It's incredibly dense. There's a 26-storey building across from my house, a 20-storey building next to it. Across the street from it you have a 24-storey public housing building. But there's an enormous park. We have to find a way to build new parks to accommodate tall buildings."
Now, if we could just do something about those subways.