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“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation–although these make fine ingredients–but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.

“If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. These high costs of occupying new buildings may be levied in the form of an owner’s interest and amortization payments on the capital costs of the construction. However the costs are paid off, they have to be paid off. And for this reason, enterprises that support the cost of new construction must be capable of paying a relatively high overhead–high in comparison to that necessarily required by old buildings. To support such high overheads, the enterprises must be either (a) high profit or (b) well subsidized.

“If you look about, you will see that only operations that are well established, high-turnover, standardized or heavily subsidized can afford, commonly, to carry the costs of new construction. Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. . . . Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. But the unformalized feeders of the arts–studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions–these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.

“As for really new ideas of any kind–no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be–there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”–

Perhaps I am flogging a dead horse. Perhaps not. Though I must admit it seems that I am flogging a dead hose at the moment.

2016 marks the 100th birthday of Jane Jacobs.

Who was she and why does she matter?

Well, first and foremost Jane Jacobs was my friend from the arrival of her family in Toronto in 1968 up to her passing in 2006. Her children when I meet them on the street say, “Our mother loved you.” I reply that I love their mother. That is the personal. Few people got fan letters from Jane Jacobs. I got several.

The Jane Jacobs the world knows is the author of the most important book on cities, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES. She has many books. Her last, published in 2004 shortly before she left us is titled DARK AGE AHEAD. In it she describes the progressive dumbing down that leads to dark ages. She reminds us that dark ages happen because we forget.

It has been said by more than one writer that my work here in Toronto is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about.

In the fullest sense of what that means it is.

In 1992 by chance after an altercation with the management of a bar up the street that had asked me to run a film program I invited the audience down the street to my home. I thought I would use this place only that one night as an interim.

As people walked in they said, “We like this.”

I said, “Do you? Then this is where it will be.”

Almost at once the program came under attack for being in violation of the city’s zoning bylaws. I was shut down. This was in 1992.

Had anyone told me when I first came to Toronto in the mid-1960s that I would be inviting absolute strangers into my home I would have said, “No way.”

In 1992, however, after discovering what an intellectually and spiritually rewarding experience that can be I found the alternate, running my program once again out of a bar or a space rent from a church, college, library, school or university stifling.

In spaces I rented I had to focus on covering costs. When I started using bars I had to focus on putting bums and seats and on alcohol going down their throats. Doing that I found that Bob Dylan and others, whatever merits their work may have, primarily are beer sales people.

Years ago American musician Cecil Taylor had said, “The key to success in the arts is to find some place small in our own city where we can present our ideas on a regular basis without being interfered with. Do that and the whole world comes to our door.”

This is true. What cities need are a few large spaces and a plethora of small, intimate spaces.

Now the essence of Jane Jacobs’ ideas as expressed in all her works is giving the poor space not only to live but also to breathe. She writes of the widow who, to make ends meet, takes in washing. The others on her street complain that by doing this she is lowering the value of their property. They complain. The widow stops doing laundry. She goes on social assistance. Then she moves into less expensive surroundings because social assistance just does not give her enough. From there it is a downwards spiral.

Call me obstinate if you will but I feel that when a person of the caliber of Jane Jacobs says we are doing something worthwhile a city bureaucrat ought not to be able to erase it completely.

There is a double irony here.

“You know and I know that my work here falls within the city’s bylaws,” I said the the City of Toronto Inspector Elliott deBarros when he first came by here in June.

“Yes,” he said then though he now states he said no such thing.

The thing is that early in the term of this city’s most loved and loathed Mayor Robert Ford, Metro Licensing and Standards reviewed my situation here. At that time they agreed my program is being run within the city’s bylaws. The fine that had been levied on my landlord was refunded.

Lawrence Solomon wrote in THE NATIONAL POST, “Jane Jacobs rules as Ford strikes a blow for film freedom.”

Yes, for a moment she did.

In the arts for generations in Europe older artists who were able invited artists new to scene  into their homes through regular gatherings called “Salons” (Salon being French for ‘living room’) where they could meet with and learn from established artists. These salons were places where the new could meet and learn from the current and from the old, about to pass away generation. This led to a great unconscious continuity in the scene.

This is what I have done at 463 Bathurst Street since I first invited strangers into my home.

In 1968, the year I met Jane Jacobs, I also encountered the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of THE I CHING which is a Chinese oracle which was ancient when Confucius was young.  I fell in love with its ideas. I began to live them. I like to say that I was young enough (22) and dumb enough to believe them.

THE I CHING teaches we can not separate learning from doing for then both become sterile. THE I CHING teaches that the truly superior person is always on the side of the lowly, the despised. THE I CHING teaches that the superior man is like the wild goose. When he finds food he calls to his mates. He shares it. He does not seek to horde it for himself and his select friends. THE I CHING teaches that the superior man sees all that lives as part of his family. In the world of the superior person there are no strangers.

We can measure the greatness of a country, an era, a nation, a time by how those ideas which are the finest we can have are carried out.

The essence of all belief systems from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Marxism what have we is to treat the stranger as our brother/sister.

Elliott deBarros, the City of Toronto inspector who came by here, in a letter to my landlord wrote, “The term ‘Salon’ is not defined within the former or new Zoning By-laws, however, I believe the definitions you included in your communication speak of gatherings convened by invitation and not through advertising on an open website nor through publicly posted print ads. Your tenants stated position that ‘anyone who shows up on my doorstep is considered a friend’, and thus, he should not be considered to be open to the public, seems at best disingenuous. Additionally, his acknowledgement that The Cineforum is a destination listed in travel guides as a “must see” for visitors to Toronto also suggests that this is other than a regular gathering of friends and colleagues.

“As I have communicated to your tenant, the use of the property, or a portion thereof, as any of the following would all require a zoning review under both the former and current Zoning By-laws:


–          Place of Assembly

–          Public Museum

–          Charitable Institution

–          Private Academic, Philanthropic or Religious School

–          Public Art Gallery

–          Tourist Home

–          Performing Arts Studio

–          Education Use

–          Religious Education Use


“Your tenant was requested in early June to submit an application to the city for a ‘Preliminary Project Review’ to determine whether the additional use could be classified as “legal non-conforming” and thus not be required to obtain a minor zoning variance, and declined to do so.”

Actually, when I first spoke with Mr. deBarros he said the city has a hard time defining exactly what it is I am doing here, He said the best they could come up with is “Public Art Gallery.” He stated that if I filed for this there was a great likelihood it would be approved without bother and that while I could continue as I was (which he now denies stating) it would protect me from future complaints,

So I did begin the process of filing. Then I found I would have to submit blueprints.

It then became clear to me that if I filed blueprints for a public art gallery the place would have to conform to those blueprints.

I decided to pass. Mr. deBarros then informed me that if I did not file the city would take legal action against me. A friendly option had now turned into a threat.

Your tenants stated position that ‘anyone who shows up on my doorstep is considered a friend’, and thus, he should not be considered to be open to the public, seems at best disingenuous.“–Elliott deBarros.

In the first place this remark, which is entirely subjective and which is an attack on my character which is entirely unwarranted has no place in an official letter from a government bureaucrat to my landlord, his agent or to anyone else.

In the second place were Mr. deBarros to look at my public record he would find no basis for making such a statement.

Some say I am cantankerous.

“Citizen Jane This month, to mark Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday, Toronto celebrates her as an inspirational oracle who fought valiantly for density, walkability and urban regeneration. I knew her as the cantankerous rabble-rouser who lived down the street   BY JOE BERRIDGE”

That is a quality I share with Jane Jacobs. I am proudly cantankerous.

I am cantankerous that so many who pay lip service to her ideas can talk of waking a Jane Jacobs walk but when it comes down to actually walking that walk they are nowhere to be found.

One the methods used by city officials to get their way is to slander those who oppose them.

Since I first spoke with City Inspector deBarros in June I have been subjected to a constant barrage of the vilest slander that can be expressed against a person. Street flyers have gone and are going up around the city stating there is a police investigation into myself as a pedophile.

There is no police investigation as the officer handling this reminded me again. I said to him, “You know this. I know this. The people reading those flyers don’t know it.”

No, they don’t. It is said rumors are started by haters, carried by fools and believed by idiots.

These posters are being put up by the same man behind the complaints to Elliott deBarros and to MLS.

It is voice they choose to listen to.

This is nothing new. It has happened many times before. It will happen many times again.

“It’s pretty safe to say that Jane was a prophet and she was also on the right side of history,” said Toronto’s chief city planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. “But let’s not overromanticize this. Canada is a suburban nation primarily built around cars. … Her ideas are as critical and relevant today and need to be as much of a clarion call as they were back in the sixties.”

Nice words. Talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Liora Freedman, the planner for my part of Toronto, told me to stop emailing her office.

“I saw those posters. Why aren’t the police doing something?” my Councilor, Joe Cressy, said when he walked in here during his campaign for council.

“They say it is civil not criminal. They say there is nothing they can do,” I replied.

“It’s not civil. It is hate,” said Joe.

Well, Joe is not answering my calls nor is he answering my emails. So much for Joe.

Dark ages happen because we forget. In 1970 I was able to travel from Toronto to Hollywood with only a Toronto Public Library Card for identification. Not today. Today I require a passport to pick up a registered letter from the post office. MLS sent me a registered letter. I was not home when it came to my door. When I went to the post office the clerk said, “This passport is expired.”

I said, “Whose picture is on it?” She said, “It is expired.”

It once was that the laws of the land stood for the poor and the stranger. Today the laws of this land stand against the poor, The stand against the stranger. We

Not many got a fan letter from Jane Jacobs. I got several.

Not many got a fan letter from Jane Jacobs. I got several.

are indeed living in a DARK AGE.–Reg Hartt 11/21/2016.

These are the voices Elliott deBarros, Joy Correia, Joe Cressy and many more are choosing NOT to hear. They are good voices. Add your voice.

“For generations of a certain kind of Toronto film buff, Reg Hartt and the cinema-cum-salon he runs out of his rented Victorian on Bathurst Ave., below College, are institutions. Hartt’s little art house is among the stranger, crustier corners of the city’s cultural community, a place where cinephiles have gathered for more than two decades to watch and discuss the classics, from Luis Bunuel to Buster Keaton, Bela Lugosi and beyond.

“But despite its cult status, the so-called Cineforum’s days may now be numbered. The city, sicced on Hartt by someone who apparently hates his ubiquitous posters, says he is in violation of zoning bylaws and must apply to recategorize his place as a public art gallery. That’s an expensive, time-consuming process, and Hartt, who is 70, says he’s not up to it.

“The city should retreat and allow this indie institution to continue making its cultural contribution. It wouldn’t be the first time. In 2010, the Cineforum faced shuttering on similar grounds, but received a last-minute reprieve from an unlikely saviour: Rob Ford, ever ready to answer a constituent’s call. The first time the city came after the cinema, in the 1990s, an intervention from Hartt’s old friend and champion Jane Jacobs, the late influential urban theorist, saved the day.

“It’s no wonder Jacobs was an advocate of Hartt’s. Though the eccentric impresario has a reputation as an ornery figure, occasionally combative in defence of his work, the Cineforum has done no harm, and is not likely to. Rather, by providing a free forum for curious Torontonians to consume and talk about art, it has in its modest way enriched the cultural life of the city. Any law that would erase this unique landmark on purely bureaucratic grounds is an ass of exactly the sort Jacobs fought so fiercely against.”

“Toronto Mayor Rob Ford recently came to the rescue of Reg Hartt, an individual who had run afoul of the law. Hartt’s violation? As explained by city authorities, he was illicitly running “a place of assembly.” Hartt’s actual crime? He is a non-conformist in a city that makes just about all commercial activities illegal, including those in the home, unless some city bureaucrat says otherwise.

“Hartt has been a credit to Toronto for decades. His Cineforum, which screens noteworthy films for small study groups in his living room, has long won acclaim from critics in Canada and abroad and endorsements from Canadian icons such as author Pierre Berton and urban guru Jane Jacobs.  Lonely Planet lists 463 Bathurst St, his modest abode on a major Toronto thoroughfare, as among the top 30 sights to see in Toronto and in the top 30 of sights to see in Ontario. That’s quite a credit to the city. Yet although neighbours don’t complain, the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department periodically shuts him down.

Cineforum deserves a happy ending to its saga: Keenan

A city that sees value in rules, but no value in letting Reg Hartt bend them, has no right to claim Jane Jacobs’ legacy, writes Edward Keenan.

The founder of a landmark alternative theatre in downtown Toronto is refusing to back down in the face of a poster-bullying campaign that seems designed to bring violence upon him and his associates.

There are more, way more. These ought to be enough.

This fight is not about my right to do something in my home that a very great many people in this city value. It is about our right to live our lives in this city from the richest to the poorest.

“REG HARTT’S CINEFORUM is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about.”–Laura Lind, EYE weekly.

Yes, it is.  ,

"Reg Hartt's Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs writes about."

“Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs writes about.”


In 1979 I brought veteran animation director Robert “Bob” Clampett to Toronto. I asked Jane Jacobs to welcome hi. “I will if I can talk about your value to this city,” she said. Here she is:


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