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Delivering Results

Ward 22 Parks Improvements Update

I have been working closely with City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff in 2014 to implement improvements to our parks in Ward 22. Due to a long winter and a slow thaw in the spring, some of the construction work has been delayed. I have heard from a number of you with regards to the construction timeline and I am pleased to be able to provide the following updates.

 

Charlotte Maher Park

I am happy to report that Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff have advised that construction at Charlotte Maher Park (550 Roehampton Avenue) is expected to be completed in the first half of September 2014. The park itself will remain open during construction; however, portions of the park where construction is taking place will be closed while work is being completed.

 

Forest Hill Road Park

I am pleased to confirm that Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff have had a pre-construction meeting with the contractor at Forest Hill Road Park (179 Forest Hill Road). I have been advised that construction will begin on Monday, August 18, 2014 and is expected to be completed in the first half of October 2014. During this time, portions of the park will be closed to allow for construction staging; however, the entire park will not be closed.

   

Taking Action on Reducing Speed Limits on Local Streets to Protect our Families

Since being elected in 2010, I've worked continuously with fellow parents, and all residents, to make our neighbourhood streets as safe as possible by responding to community requests for traffic and speed mitigation measures where feasible. I frequently visit residents' homes and streets with City Transportation staff looking for possible solutions to residents' concerns about traffic. Most of these concerns justifiably are based on parents wanting to protect their children. Unfortunately, there are some sudden and tragic accidents that no traffic calming measure will prevent. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to improve safety in our community.

 

Recently, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto recommended reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h on most of the city's local residential streets. His report noted that pedestrians have an over 20% chance of dying when hit by a car travelling at 40 km/h but fatality rates decrease to less than 5% when hit by a car that travels at 30 km/h. After 30 km/h zones were introduced in London, England, these zones experienced a 42% reduction in fatalities. Given that the research demonstrates that reducing the speed limit from 40 km/h to 30 can be the difference between life and death, I commend my colleagues on Council for supporting my motion directing City staff to provide recommendations on lowering the speed limit, where possible, to 30 km/h on local streets within areas designated "Neighbourhood" in Ward 22.

 

In addition to improving safety, this measure could also decrease traffic incursion into our neighbourhoods by creating a disincentive for drivers to leave arterial roads in favour of shortcuts through local streets. I recognize that this initiative may be controversial, but as your City Councillor and a father myself, I believe that we have a responsibility to act on evidence to protect our families.

   

Forest Hill Village Urban Design Study

Forest Hill Village is a unique retail area in Midtown Toronto. It is one of the few commercial shopping enclaves in the city that is wholly contained within a residential area. Several recent developments and renovations within the Village have been undertaken with little deference to the prevailing streetscape (such as the new LCBO). To allow this inconsistent development to continue will further threaten the very character and aesthetic that makes the Village unique. That's why I'm happy to report that

 

I successfully moved a motion at City Council in February 2014 directing planning staff to develop urban design guidelines for Forest Hill Village, in consultation with the community, to protect the distinctive "village" character of Forest Hill.

   

Reducing the Cost of Paid-Duty Police Officers

As a member of the Council's Audit Committee, I set a process in motion to reduce the number of paid-duty police officers the City needs to hire at construction and work sites.

 

I, along with many residents, find it frustrating and wrong to see uniformed police officers standing by work sites while other budgets to important City services are being cut.

 

I am happy to report that my colleagues on Audit Committee and subsequently, Council supported my motion that requests the province to follow Vancouver's lead by ensuring that lower-paid enforcement officials are monitoring construction sites. If permitted, this initiative will save the City of Toronto, businesses and community organizations millions of dollars while ensuring that the police are focused on what they're best at - serving and protecting us.

   

Made-for-Toronto Local Appeal Body

The Province of Ontario granted the City of Toronto the power to establish a Local Appeal Body (LAB) to hear appeals of Committee of Adjustment decisions on both minor variances and consent applications. The Local Appeal Body would be composed of such persons as the City considers advisable (subject to certain by-laws regarding such things as eligibility criteria and other restrictions). At its December 4th, 2013 meeting, City Council's Planning and Growth Management Committee requested the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning to initiate a public consultation process on the establishment and implementation of this Local Appeal Body.

 

In June 2014, Council considered a staff report, including the results of the public consultation and recommended principles to guide implementation of LAB. I expect that a motion to establish this will be adopted by Council this week. I'm deeply grateful to the City's Planning and Growth Management Committee for completing this necessary first step in mitigating insensitive and unsustainable developments in our community and across our city. We now need to continue advocating to completely free Toronto from the OMB's purview with regard to other impactful planning decisions, such as large-scale development in our communities.

   

Improving Development Proposal Public Notices

Development Proposal Public Notices (signs) on an application site are often the only information about a new building proposal that Toronto residents will encounter. That's why it's important that these notices are attractive and well-designed, written in language that is informative and easy for the average person to understand while encouraging involvement in the planning process. Unfortunately, the City of Toronto's current Development Proposal notices fall far short of these goals. The notices are black and white with a very small picture of the planned building; the text is dry and does not encourage the reader to exercise their right to engage in issues that can have significant effects on their neighbourhood.

 

I'm pleased to report that my motion that requests the Chief Planner to redesign the City of Toronto's Development Notices was supported by my colleagues.

   

Council Supports My Motion to Address Rail Safety Concerns

I'm very pleased to report that Council has unanimously supported my motion that requests the federal government address local residents' concerns regarding the significant increase in hazardous materials travelling by rail through Midtown in recent years. In particular, trains carrying crude oil have increased from 500 carloads in 2009 to an estimated 140,000 in 2013.

 

A significant number of these tank cars are using the Canadian Pacific rail line that runs through Toronto from the Junction neighbourhood along Dupont Street, right in the heart of Midtown, through Scarborough in the east. My motion requests that the federal government:

  • require rail operators to publicly release information on dangerous goods being transported by rail;
  • enact more stringent safety standards for tanker cars carrying crude oil through Toronto's neighbourhoods; and
  • require rail companies to engage in meaningful dialogue with local residents before shipping hazardous materials next to our homes, schools, hospitals and daycares
   

Yonge Eglinton Bus Barns

The TTC's bus barns site at the south west corner of Yonge and Eglinton has been left as a derelict eyesore for too long. While the area will now be used as a staging ground for the Eglinton Crosstown construction, there is no excuse for the condition in which the TTC has left it for the past decade.

 

I'm happy to report that I have been successful in working with Metrolinx and the TTC to erect new hoarding with well-designed panels informing the community about the coming Crosstown line. This is a temporary solution during the construction phase. I will continue working to ensure that eventual development on this site is kept within the height and density parameters designated by the community and the City's Official Plan, and that a beautiful public space, preferably on the corner, is part of any plan going forward.

   

Saving our City's Sam the Record Man Signs

I am delighted to report that a location has been finalized for the beloved Sam the Record Man Signs to once again illuminate our city's downtown streetscape. Earlier this month, City Council approved an amendment to the agreement between the City of Toronto and Ryerson University (initially the signs were to be located on Ryerson's new Student Centre) to place the signs atop the existing building at 277 Victoria Street. From this location, the signs will be a crowning addition to dynamic lights and sounds of Yonge & Dundas Square.

 

I went one step further to ensure the display of the Sam the Record Man signs in perpetuity, by successfully moving a motion requiring that any subsequent developer/owner of 277 Victoria Street also undertake ownership, maintenance and display of this important piece of our city's cultural heritage.

 

For more information on the Sam's Signs, please see this excellent article in CityLab for The Atlantic: Saving Sam the Record Man's Giant Spinning Discs.

   

Funding Restored for Tenants Defence Fund

The City’s Outreach and Organizing Program helps tenant groups to organize and prepare for hearings at the Landlord and Tenant Board for rent increase disputes, or at the Ontario Municipal Board for demolitions and condo conversion matters. Unfortunately this program was cut a few years ago, leaving many tenants without effective representation. After several years of hard work to restore funding, I successfully moved a motion to renew this program as part of the 2014 Budget to help ensure that renters are protected against unfair rent increases.

   

POPS: Securing Privately Owned Publicly-Accessible Spaces

As Toronto’s population grows, we must ensure that our urban parks, plazas and squares are publicly-accessible. That’s why I’m pleased that City Planning is moving forward with my initiative to help protect and promote Toronto’s privately owned publicly-accessible spaces (POPS) that have been secured by the City of Toronto for your use. There are dozens of POPS throughout the Midtown and Downtown areas that are poorly used. Clear signage at the entrance to open spaces - along with an interactive, online map - let people know they have the same right to relax, eat their lunch or read in that space as they would at any City park. Thanks to this initiative, you’ll most likely see a new POPS sign at a creative open space in your neighbourhood soon.

   

New Traffic Lights Approved at Roehampton and Yonge

The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee recently approved new traffic lights for Yonge Street and Roehampton Aveneue (which will be synchronized with the existing lights on Yonge Street at Eglinton and Broadway).The installation of these lights will enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists at this intersection. These lights were initially recommended by Transportation Services staff during the site plan review and approval for the development of 2263 to 2287 Yonge Street, 8 to 10 Eglinton Avenue, and 25 and 25R Roehampton, and will be installed once construction is complete. I asked City staff to proceed with the approval sooner, so that pedestrian safety can be enhanced during the lengthy construction process. I will continue to push staff to have these lights installed as quickly as possible. Final approval of the lights took place at City Council in July 2014.

   

Ward 22's First Community Garden

In April 2012, I held a participatory budgeting meeting asking residents of the Brentwood Towers, Deer Park and Chaplin Estates how they would like to allocate developer funds to improve Oriole Park. The local community voted to direct these Section 37 funds toward a community garden. I am happy to report that my motion to deliver this funding was approved this year by Council. Construction of the garden began in April 2014, in time for the gardening season, and we celebrated the opening of the garden on May 24, 2014.

   

Safe and Accessible Crossings for the Beltline Trail

Many trail users have expressed their concerns regarding the lack of safe pedestrian-cyclist crossings where the Beltline meets Oriole Parkway and Avenue Road. Currently there is no safe crossing point that allows the trail to be truly contiguous for residents. Last year, I requested City Staff to report to Community Council with viable options to install signalized crossings at these locations that are synchronized with the existing signalized intersections. Staff recommendations to install a signalized crossing on Avenue Road south of Chaplin Crescent and replace the existing traffic median on Oriole Parkway with a pedestrian-cyclist refuge island have been approved by both Community Council and City Council. I am now working to ensure that both of these projects are completed as quickly as possible.

   

New Kay Gardner Beltline Murals

Last year, the Friends of the Beltline commissioned wonderful new murals for the Eglinton Avenue underpass on the Beltline Trail. I joined the group and the mural artists for the official celebration last year. The murals highlight the unique rail history of the Beltline Trail, along with its current uses.

 

Art students at Greenwood College School also worked on a new mural for the Beltline Trail on the Mount Pleasant Road underpass. The students and I hosted a community consultation meeting on April 16, 2014, regarding their work and the mural was completed by the end of Spring 2014.

   

Improvements to the Median Parkettes on Belsize Drive

Glebe Manor Square and the Belsize Parkette will be receiving improvements such as tree planting (to increase forest canopy) and regenerating the well worn paths. A second community consultation meeting for these parks was held in Spring 2014.

   

Saving the Hodgson Outdoor Artificial Ice Rink

The Hodgson artificial ice rink was closed this year as a result of two ammonia leaks in two years. The Hodgson rink was over 30 years old and there is no doubt that it’s infrastructure needed to be completely replaced. With the rink closed, I worked closely with many dedicated parents to build a natural ice rink nearby at June Rowlands (Davisville) Park. While this rink was a great success, it did not replace having a reliable artificial rink in our neighbourhood. The rink is operated by the City on land owned by the TDSB. I worked with Trustee Laskin to ensure the City moved forward with securing funding and tendering a contract to refurbish and upgrade the rink, and that the facility would continue to be located at Hodgson Senior Public School. Barring any unknown construction, the rink is anticipated to re-open for the 2014/2015 winter season.

   

Sharon, Lois & Bram Playground

I’m delighted to report that my motion was approved to name the playground at June Rowlands Park in honour of the celebrated, Toronto-based children’s music and entertainment trio, Sharon, Lois & Bram. The official playground sign was appropriately created in the shape of an elephant. On May 10, 2014, we celebrated the playground naming ceremony with hundreds of city residents and a live performance by the beloved musical trio!

   

Motion to Stop Unfair Rent Increases Supported at Council

Our community's campaign to stop unfair rent increases has kicked into high gear. My motion to request the province to eliminate Above the Guideline Increases (AGIs) for basic upkeep and repairs passed Council in February 2014. Please read this Toronto Star article for more information and to learn how you can take action against spiraling rent increases and unexpected fees, please visit my page on AGIs.

   

Youth Equity Strategy

Update on Addressing the Roots of Youth Violence: I am pleased to announce that, after nearly a year since I first moved a motion at Council to create this strategy, the final report to address the roots of youth violence, titled the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, was supported unanimously by my colleagues at Council in February 2014. This comprehensive report contains 110 recommended actions to support our most vulnerable youth.

 

I look forward to seeing the thoughtful and proactive measures to deal with youth violence implemented in community centres, libraries and TCHC facilities across Toronto. The staff-recommended initiatives to assist our city's most vulnerable youth include mental supports, employment training and crime diversion programs in targeted areas. This strategy also uses every dollar allocated to these programs in a more efficient, deliberate and focused way to get the best result for at-risk youth.

   
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