A Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan Moves Forward with a Network Approach
I hope that we are closer than we ever have been before.
As you know, I have strongly advocated for a more honest and comprehensive approach to transit planning in Toronto and the GTHA. I’ve also challenged plans that made no sense in order to make them better and less costly. For far too long, our city has looked at projects in isolation, and through the cynical lens of self-serving political pursuits, which has led to inaction or, even worse, terrible and expensive decisions.
That’s why I am very pleased that Council has asked Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat to continue studying a coordinated, network-approach transit plan that includes:
- The Relief Line subway
- Express One Stop Scarborough Subway Extension
- Eglinton Crosstown East Extension to UofT Scarborough
- Eglinton Crosstown West Extension to the Airport
- Waterfront East LRT
- Waterfront West LRT
While I am actually optimistic that this new approach will lead to better results, I do have several questions. For example, I want to know if there might be cost savings if the revised Scarborough subway follows the route of an existing at-grade corridor that is currently being used for the SRT as both TTC and Metrolinx reports suggest. My colleagues, including Mayor John Tory, overwhelmingly supported my motion to ask Staff to explore whether it would be possible.
I am very grateful to Mayor Tory for choosing a more evidence-based approach on transit planning and being willing to champion a better plan. I also deeply appreciate the work of our chief planner, along with her tireless and skilled team, who worked around the clock to deliver this plan to Council.
Too many Torontonians have been waiting for too long for a transit plan that makes sense, and can be built ASAP to improve their lives. Our system is already overcrowded on lines such as the Yonge subway through midtown down to Bloor, along streetcar routes such as King and at capacity on routes such as the existing Scarborough RT.
We now need to move forward with a network plan we believe in, and work hard to ensure the funding is in place to see the plan through to fruition.
It is expected that the results of this study will be brought to Council this June. As always, I’ll continue to keep you up to date.
Revised Gardiner Hybrid Plan Approved by Council
Last week, Council approved a modified hybrid reconfiguration specifically for the 1.4 km Gardiner East section. The new plan removes one of the ramps and pushes the elevated roadway back from the waterfront at a significant cost.
As I have previously written, I would have preferred the “Boulevard” option. While this new plan allows for a more connected waterfront and opens up more land for development, it will still be direct our limited resources toward serving relatively few people.
The revised hybrid will now cost approximately $500 million more than removing the elevated highway and replacing it with an at-grade boulevard. It will now also demand cars slow down significantly for a portion (due to the turn radias connecting the DVP). However, the construction time will be shorter than the Boulevard option.
For the same cost, the City could have fulfilled a promise to new businesses and residents by moving forward with the Waterfront East LRT, or helped address any one of Toronto’s long list of unfunded capital priorities, including the backlog in social housing repairs or the Relief Subway line.
In total, I believe history will not view this decision kindly. However, I also acknowledge that Council made the best decision based on the options (which discluded the Boulevard) in front of it last week.
New Music Strategy Supported by Council
A new music strategy that hopes to unleash the economic development potential of Toronto’s Music industry, in much the same way the film industry was developed, received unanimous approval from Council. The new plan will promote music-based tourism to our city while looking at better ways to support artists.
There was concern expressed by some residents that approving this initiative would lead to new exemptions for amplified music in City parks. I worked with Councillor Wong-Tam and other colleagues to address these concerns with a motion that referred any proposed noise by-law changes to the Noise by-law review currently being undertaken by Licensing & Standards Committee.
Noise By-Law Review
I deferred the previous proposals by Staff that allowed for a more lax noise by-law. I have been informed that Staff will be bringing an improved set of recommendations to Licensing & Standards Committee this May. I know this is an important issue for many in our community and I will provide further updates when the new report is released. I will certainly continue to do everthing possible to protect the quality of life in our neighbourhoods.
Province Moving in Wrong Direction on Surplus School Properties
It was very timely that Council debated the City’s position on regulations related to school boards selling surplus properties. As part of the province’s Grants for Student Needs funding, the Ministry of Education announced that both the City and other school boards will have to pay full market value for school properties deemed surplus.
This move will make it more difficult to keep public land in public hands. As Chair of the City-School Boards Advisory Committee, I will work with Mayor Tory to advocate for the Toronto’s interests on this issue.
Improving the Response to Infill Construction Sites
Throughout many of our neighbourhoods we are fighting a dramatic increase in inappropriate infill development projects that threaten the fabric and stability of our residential communities. The battles have played out through the Committee of Adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board, where they often are approved and residents are then forced to start the next fight – the construction process.
When these new homes are built, it is incredibly disruptive to local residents, as they are being built right in the heart of residential neighbourhoods and the impacts are literally in people’s front yards. Often, contractors will work beyond permitted noise bylaw hours, they take over on-street parking, and block the public right of way. Of particular concern is the excessive noise and dust from stone and rock cutting performed on site, which is disruptive and hazardous for immediate neighbours. On some streets there are several of these projects occurring simultaneously, and once one job is completed another begins.
I have been working with several residents to help mitigate the impacts these infill construction sites have on the local community and last week City Council approved a strategy to help address this issue.
The City’s strategy aims to:
- Improve the complaint management strategy to manage and respond to complaints more quickly;
- Improve communication with residents to provide clear, understandable information so that issues can be resolved in a more timely manner;
- Encourage good construction practices in the building industry through education, more effective enforcement, increased use of tickets, and an additional mandatory inspection and increased building inspector knowledge.
City Council also directed the Executive Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards to work in consultation with Toronto Buildings, The Energy and Environment Office and Toronto Public Health to come back to City Council in 2017 with recommendations on dust control measures related to infill construction.
For your review, here is the report that was approved at City Council last week.
Further Progress for Creating a Made-for-Toronto Local Appeal Body (LAB)
Last week, Council approved the implementation of a (LAB) for the City after a follow-up report from February 2016. Three out of the five motions were approved and can be viewed here. The background for this decision comes from the Province of Ontario granting the City of Toronto the power to establish a LAB, to hear “appeals” of Committee of Adjustment decisions on both minor variances and consent applications.
While this is a better process, I look forward to seeing more details as the LAB begins to take shape. This LAB will be arms-length from Council and completely independent.
In was clear to me that this is not an initiative City Staff would’ve proposed themselves, based on their responses at Council. I also do have some concerns about the downloading of costs to the City for the appeals work from the Province.
That being said, the Province currently only allows Toronto to create a local body to hear minor variances appeals, not on large-scale development projects. They have said at various times that Toronto must move forward with this LAB before they will seriously consider freeing us from the OMB. Therefore, I believe its a necessary step we must take.
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.
Shifting to renewable power is one important measure that cities can take to help cut CO2. As a School Trustee I helped to initiate the Green Grid program which uses solar panels to create clean energy and teach kids about environmental stewardship. As your City Councillor, I am proud to be involved in a similar program that uses City facilities to reduce our reliance on the traditional energy grid while creating additional revenue for the City.
In Ward 22, a new solar panel has just been installed on the roof of EMS Station 18 at 643 Eglinton Avenue West. The 10 kilowatt panel generates about 11,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 500 kilograms annually. This project will generate $80,000 in revenue for the City over its 20 year lifespan through the sale of electricity to the Province under a micro Feed-in Tariff contract.
Increasing the use of renewable energy is only one change that cities can make to reduce greenhouse gases. Expanding public transit, designing more compact, walkable neighbourhoods and planting more trees can also significantly reduce our environmental footprint while improving our quality of life and the economy.
To learn more about what local governments around the world are doing to improve the environment, please click here.
AppleTree Markets, a local Ward 22 non-profit organization, will once again be transforming June Rowlands Park into a temporary town square for the fifth year of their popular farmers’ market. I am delighted to support this community-building initiative at June Rowlands (Davsiville) Park. The market has been a place where you are sure to see friends and neighbours, while buying fresh produce, fish, meats, chocolate, and so much more.
This season, the market begins on May 10 and will operate weekly on Tuesdays between 3 and 7pm. I look forward to seeing you there!
Improving the Midtown Yonge Streetscape and Supporting Small Business
With the Yonge station set to open at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton in 2020, it is imperative that the local BIA start developing a unified streetscape design as soon as possible.
That’s why I moved a motion to provide the Midtown Yonge BIA with $47,500, fully funded by Section 37 community benefits, to design a Streetscape Masterplan that will start the process of adding new trees, street furniture and other enhancements in the coming years.
This plan will help improve the walkability and attractiveness of the street which will, in turn, help attract new businesses to the neighbourhood.
Please feel welcome to attend the upcoming open house, to review and provide feedback on the current proposal with PLANT ARCHITECT Inc, the BIA Board of Management and staff from the City’s BIA Office.The meeting will be held from 5pm to 9pm on Tuesday, April 19 at Grano (2035 Yonge Street).
Lionel Conacher Park Splash Pad Public Meeting
Please join me on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 7pm to discuss an exciting, new children’s splash pad for Lionel Conacher Park.
The meeting will take place in the Gymnasium at Cottingham Junior Public School (85 Birch Avenue) and will give you a chance to review the new splash pad design with myself and Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff. I hope to see you there!
St. Clair Avenue West Mural Project
The award-winning public arts organization STEPS, responsible for the World’s Tallest Mural at Sherbourne and Wellesley is teaming up with Slate Asset Management and celebrated international artist PHLEGM to create a 12-storey mural at 1 St. Clair Avenue West.
As part of STEPS’ consultation process, they are conducting a survey to gather resident feedback to help inform the mural’s design. To access the survey and learn more about this project, please click here.
City Planning has initiated a study entitled Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities. The study seeks to examine how families with children and youth can be better accommodated in mid and high-rise neighbourhoods – the fastest growing building type in the city. The objective of the study is to ensure that families with kids, both present and future, are provided with the opportunity to grow up and thrive in higher density housing.
This study follows up on a number of City Planning initiatives to encourage family friendly developments including the deferred 2010 draft OPA to require 3 bedroom units in new developments, the Condominium Consultations and the Chief Planner’s Roundtable on Planning Cities for Families. The study will address both the quantity and quality of new housing by exploring the needs of families at three scales (the unit, the building and the neighbourhood) and result in new Official Plan policies and a Handbook containing performance standards and guidelines.
The study website has been updated to include the study approach which explains the work being undertaken in each of the three phases. An overview of the consultation approach which lists all of the consultation activities that will be undertaken throughout the course of the study is attached. You may also be interested in reviewing demographic profiles of households with children in each of our seven study areas: the Downtown and Centres (Etobicoke, North York, Yonge Eglinton, and Scarborough Civic Centres) as identified on Map 2 Urban Structure as well as two additional areas – Humber Bay Shores and the Sheppard Corridor.
As part of the first phase of the study, we have launched an online survey to learn about the experiences of families raising children in mid and high-rise buildings.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, feel free to contact Ann-Marie Nasr, Manager, SIPA, firstname.lastname@example.org 416-392-3078.
Following a recent meeting I conducted with residents and staff from TCHC, it was brought to my attention that a very useful, yet under-utilized resource exists to assist tenants in accessing important requests. TCHC tenants can speak with a client care representative 24/7 for emergency and routine maintenance requests, questions about rent or leases, requests to transfer to a different unit, information about how to add or remove someone from a lease, or many other matters pertaining to your tenancy.
The system operates similarly to Toronto’s 311 service, whereby each request is processed efficiently and assigned a unique reference number the caller can follow up on.
TCHC Client Care can be reached at 416-981-5500.
For information on a number of other important contact numbers for TCHC tenants, please click here.
Public Consultations on the Recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing
Toronto Community Housing tenants are invited to public meetings regarding the recommendations made in the final report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing. The meetings will be an opportunity for tenants to hear about the recommendations and share their views regarding how the City should move forward on the Task Force recommendations.
Please click here for a complete list of meeting dates and locations between April 11th to 25th.
THE PROBUS CLUB of TORONTO welcomes PROfessional BUSiness men and women who have retired from their jobs or businesses and want to maintain a social network with others who have similar interests. The club meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 10am to 12pm in the Holy Rosary Parish Hall, 356 St. Clair Ave. West.
For more information on joining the Probus Club of Toronto, please e-mail email@example.com.
Do you know someone or a community group who is making a difference in Toronto by reducing barriers to civic participation? Celebrate their accomplishments – nominate them for an award!
The City’s Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards recognize significant efforts of Toronto residents who are working to build a city in which all residents are full and equal participants in the social, cultural, economic, recreational and political life of the city. Each year, the City celebrates the contributions made by nominated residents or groups at an awards ceremony held in December.
Deadline for submitting nominations is Monday, May 2, 2016.
Nominees must be residents of the City of Toronto. To nominate and for more information including past recipients, please click here.
Solid Waste Management Services is undertaking the development of a Long Term Waste Management Strategy (“Waste Strategy”) to guide decision making on how the City’s waste will be managed over the next 30 to 50 years. The Draft Waste Strategy is now complete and was approved at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Tuesday March 1, 2016.
Councillor Information Sessions were held earlier this week to provide an update on how the public will be engaged on the Draft Waste Strategy from March 29, 2016 to April 27, 2016. Attached is the presentation that was delivered at those sessions.
This final phase of the Waste Strategy is pivotal. We are looking for your help to promote the March-April public consultation events and encourage residents to attend an event or take the online survey (survey available from March 29 – April 27, 2016 at www.toronto.ca/wastestrategy). The feedback received through March & April 2016 will help shape the final Waste Strategy that will be presented to Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in June 2016 and City Council in July 2016.
If you are interested in receiving future updates, you may sign up for the electronic mailing list by entering an email address at www.toronto.ca/wastestrategy. Anyone interested in following the project on Twitter may do so @GetInvolvedTO and join the conversation #TOwastestrategy.
For more information, please contact Charlotte Ueta, Acting Manager of Waste Management Planning at 416-392-8506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reminder to Change Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Batteries
Toronto Fire Services reminds residents that this weekend’s start of daylight savings time, when clocks are moved forward one hour, is also a convenient time to replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Every home in Ontario must have a working smoke alarm installed on every level and outside all sleeping areas. Working smoke alarms can increase your family’s chance of survival in a fire by providing early warning for escape. Every second counts.
As of April 2015, every home in Ontario with a fuel burning appliance or attached garage must have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed outside all sleeping areas. Working carbon monoxide alarms alert you to the presence of this colourless, odourless, tasteless and potentially deadly gas.
Tips for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms:
- When installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, read the manufacturer’s instructions on correct placement, testing and maintenance.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month using the test button.
- Replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries at least once a year and whenever the low-battery warning chirps.
- Replace smoke alarms that have been in place for 10 years or longer. Replace carbon monoxide alarms that are seven years and older.
- Avoid removing the battery in response to a sounding smoke alarm due to cooking or steam. Instead, move the smoke alarm to a better location or use the hush-button feature that will temporarily silence the alarm.
- Consider installing combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with a 10-year lithium battery.
Homeowners are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Landlords are responsible for ensuring that their rental properties comply with the law. It is against the law for tenants to remove smoke or carbon monoxide alarm batteries or to tamper with the alarms in any way.
Failure to comply with the Ontario Fire Code requirements could, upon conviction, result in a maximum fine of up to $50,000 for individuals, imprisonment, or both, and up to $100,000 for corporations, imprisonment, or both.
More information is available here.
TransformTO Community Conversations
Toronto residents are invited to join a community conversation about climate change and how we can shap Toronto’s future as a low-carbon city. The City will host 4 community conversations this spring to build a vision of what Toronto will look like in the year 2050 with drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
- April 25 – Metro Hall (55 John Street)
- April 27 – Ken Cox Community Centre (28 Colonel Samueal Smith Park Drive, Etobicoke)
- May 3 – Scarborough Civic Centre (150 Borough Drive)
- May 9 – North York City Centre, Memorial Hall (5110 Yonge Street)
All events run from 6pm-9pm.
The conversations are part of TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable, Prosperous Toronto, a City initiative in collaboration with Toronto Atmospheric Fund.
To learn more and register for an event near you, please click here.
To ensure you are informed and engaged about development proposals being proposed for sites near your neighbourhood, I’ve created an interactive webpage.
My Proposed Developments webpage has recently been updated to reflect current development applications and, as always, contains locations, staff reports and public meeting notices. Additionally, the map now shows the boundaries of the Urban Growth Centre surrounding Yonge and Eglinton, as well as the designated Avenues (portions of Eglinton Avenue West, St. Clair Avenue West, Yonge Street, Mt. Pleasant Road and Bayview Avenue). These are all areas where the Province is directing growth. Clicking on any of them will provide links to more information about the ward’s Avenues/Urban Growth Centre, as well as links to the City’s Official Plan and local secondary plans.
Please click here to learn more about what you can do to help free Toronto from the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).