This past month has been a busy one with many Ward 18 projects and initiatives in the news and at the City Council meeting that just finished last week. By working together we have successfully achieved final City Council approvals on a new and expanded Perth-Dupont Library, named a new community centre, and fought Metrolinx's proposed three story rail bridge. The City is also taking real and concrete action on affordable housing. You can read more about those and other updates in this edition of my e-newsletter.
Today also marks the first day of the 2016 budget process with the release of the proposed tax-supported Operating and Capital budgets. This is the start of a months long process that will culminate with City Council voting on these budgets on February 17 & 18, 2016. I look forward to discussing the proposed budget with you over the next couple of months. As part of my commitment to our community, I will be hosting a 2016 Budget Town Hall on Saturday January 30, 2016 from 2pm to 4pm at the Bloor-Gladstone Library to hear directly from you. For more information on the 2016 budget process, please click here.
Here in the community, I always enjoy the opportunity to attend and take part in community events and activities. I was proud to stand together with my neighbours speaking against hate crimes against Muslim members of our community at the Islamic Information Centre here in Ward 18. I also hosted a group of people at my home for dinner to help raise funds for Homes First - an organization that provides affordable, stable housing and support services to break the cycle of homelessness for people with the fewest housing options. Community members came together as we unveiled the plans for the Wallace Ave entrance to the West Toronto Railpath and I enjoyed my time at the Bloordale and the Vietnamese Association of Toronto's holiday parties.
Holiday festivities across Ward 18 and Toronto are now in full swing. You can really sense the excitement (and the unseasonably warm temperatures) in the air. During this holiday season I encourage you to give back to the community in any way that you can - whether it is donating non perishable goods, volunteering in the community, or doing a good deed. You are able to drop off any non-perishable food items and/or grocery cards at my Community Office at 1240 Bloor Street West from Wednesday to Friday, between 10am to 6pm until Friday December 18th, 2015. Your donation will benefit a local family experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and many other difficult life situations.
On behalf of everyone in my office, please accept our best wishes for health and happiness during the holidays and into the new year!
Ward 18, Davenport
Perth Dupont Library Expansion Final Approval
I am pleased to report to our community that Toronto City Council has approved a zoning by-law amendment allowing the proposed 299 Campbell Ave development to move forward after many years of community consultation and involvement.
This development will be a significant addition to our community with the proposed expansion of the Perth-Dupont Toronto Public Library (TPL) branch being housed in the base of this building – providing a brand new and significantly enlarged library for our neighbourhood. The Perth-Dupont branch is currently one of the smallest libraries in the entire TPL system and this expansion will result in a significantly larger library, growing to approximately 10,000 square feet.
When I think back to four years ago, there was talk at City Hall of closing libraries and reducing library hours. At the same time those discussions were happening, nearly 100 people here in Ward 18 came together to support expanding the Perth-Dupont branch in our community. Together with many involved community members of the Junction Triangle Library Expansion Committee, we have worked towards achieving this important milestone and should be proud of how far we have been able to come from only four short years ago.
The TPL has embraced this expansion project and is supporting this innovative approach to renovate and expand other libraries all across the system. Toronto Public Library is the world's busiest urban library system with 100 branches, over 32 million items borrowed yearly, and over 18.5 million annual visitors.
Davenport Diamond Vote at City Council
Many of you are now aware through my regular updates in this e-newsletter on Metrolinx's proposed Davenport Community Rail Overpass - a 3 story rail bridge being proposed to bypass the Davenport Diamond near Lansdowne Ave and Dupont St. I have been working hard to represent the interests of our community ever since we found about this project back in March 2015 - successfully moving two motions at City Council that got City staff involved in the assessment of this project in April 2015, and for Council to request for a delay and to endorse a list of key issues identified, including requesting that Metrolinx address and properly fund them in July 2015.
As a result of Metrolinx announcing in November 2015 that they will be moving forward with the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) for the overpass option in January 2016, City staff submitted a report to last week's Council meeting on this issue. At that meeting, I presented 1096 resident petitions collected by Options for Davenport opposing a bridge and asking for cooperation on an option that benefits our community and Metrolinx.
Following the vigorous debate on this project, City Council voted by a margin of 38-1 to oppose the overpass grade separation option within the Davenport Rail Grade Separation TPAP and to communicate to Metrolinx that it supports a tunnel option for this rail grade separation. This is now the City's official position and it will also be submitted to the Provincial Minister of the Environment and Climate Change with copy to the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario.
The City Manager will be reporting back to Council on Metrolinx's response to Council's position. The Chief Planner will also be reporting in early 2016 on the "Missing Link" initiative and its merits as a key element of the freight rail network serving the City and the GTA. The "Missing Link" would connect the CP and CN rail lines to the west of Toronto, essentially creating a bypass route north of the city for freight rail. If this is pursued by the other levels of government, it will make our community safer by eliminating freight train traffic (including oil tank cars) from travelling through our community. You can view the Council decision on this item, the report submitted, and recent correspondence between the City and Metrolinx by clicking here.
I would like to highlight that although City Council has opposed the overpass option, ultimate authority including any decision to start, stop, or delay the project rests with Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario.
The reality is that there are challenges with all the options, but based on the significant planning issues and community impacts that have been identified to-date and due to the lack of commitments from Metrolinx; City staff and Council view the tunnel option as the one with less long-term impacts.
You have my full commitment that I will continue fighting for the best possible outcome for our community and to keep you informed. Our community deserves no less.
You can view a history of my updates on this issue by clicking here.
George Chuvalo Neighbourhood Centre
Toronto City Council has voted to name the new 7,000 square foot community centre being built as part of the 362 Wallace Ave development the George Chuvalo Neighbourhood Centre. Community members have played a major role in defining this centre, from its layout, to the type of programming that will be offered once it opens, and now the name of the centre itself! Many Junction Triangle residents suggested that the building be named after a famous local, and the idea of naming it after legendary Heavyweight Boxer, George Chuvalo was the predominate choice. Hundreds of petitions were collected in the surrounding area and I brought forward a motion to Toronto City Council to officially name the centre after George Chuvalo. You can watch Chuvalo's heartfelt reaction to this initiative here. You can learn more about how this came to be and some history on Chuvalo by clicking here.
Wallace Ave Entrance to the West Toronto Railpath
I had the honour of unveiling the design of the Wallace Ave entrance to the West Toronto Railpath with many community members. The stairway entrance to the pedestrian bridge is going to be reconfigured and following that, planting and landscaping for the redesigned entrance and pedestrian plaza will begin in the spring. This is going to be an exciting change for our community and will be a great legacy piece as part of the 362 Wallace Ave development. By clicking the image below you can view the full size PDF.
All-Door Boarding on all TTC Streetcar Routes
As of yesterday, TTC passengers can board streetcars from the rear doors as long as you have a valid proof-of-payment (POP), meaning you need to have your transfer or TTC pass on you. This change will help speed up the boarding process and reduce the amount of time streetcars spend waiting at stops. This change will also help improve traffic flows and make your journey quicker. TTC Transit Enforcement Officers will be enforcing the POP fare system by conducting random checks to ensure that customers have proof-of-payment. For more information and details on what constitutes proof-of-payment please click here.
Salem and Westmoreland Parkette Renovations Now Complete
I am pleased to inform you that the renovations to Salem and Westmoreland Parkettes are now complete and the park is now officially open for Ward 18 residents to enjoy. We will be planning a grand opening event for spring of 2016 for this exciting improvement to our community infrastructure.
Parks and Recreation have asked me to communicate some important items to the public:
- The water bottle filling station has been winterized and the water will be turned on in the spring.
- The benches (total of 6) will be supplied and installed in the spring of 2016, by Toronto Parks' staff.
- The sod has been recently installed and has not yet rooted. Please stay off grass as much as possible.
- The black iron fencing will be painted by Toronto Parks' staff in 2016, when the weather is more suitable.
- Parks' staff will soon remove the existing, dilapidated benches.
Lansdowne Ave Safety Between Bloor St W and College St
In response to resident concerns over traffic, pedestrian, and cyclist safety on Lansdowne Avenue, from College Street to Bloor Street West, I organized a community meeting to discuss possible solutions. City staff from our Traffic Operations Division were in attendance to answer questions and provide feedback. One potential solution that we will pursue is the installation of a traffic light at Lansdowne Ave and Whytock Ave to make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Area residents continue to collect petitions in support of this proposal. Another idea is the possibility of installing an advance left turn signal for vehicles travelling northbound on Lansdowne Ave to turn westbound on Bloor St W.
640 Lansdowne Ave TTC Site Update
As some of you are aware, the TTC owned land at 640 Lansdowne Avenue was contaminated by previous industrial uses from the surrounding area. Following a lengthy legal battle between General Electric and the TTC over this contamination, an agreement was finally reached earlier this year.
As a result of my efforts and for the City and TTC to do its due diligence in facilitating the eventual transfer of this land, work is presently underway to complete the environmental testing process on the site to determine the current situation and next steps. This will include a Phase 1 and 2 Environmental Assessment and a Remedial Action Plan. These steps are necessary to ensure that something actually takes place on the land.
I have been informed that this work has started in early December, meaning that action is taking place after many long years of this site sitting vacant and nothing happening.
This site has also been identified as a potential site for affordable housing through the City's Open Door Program. I would like to caution that everything is still very much in the preliminary stages and I will be updating the community as this issue progresses and the picture becomes clearer. If you would like to read more about the Open Door Program, I encourage you to click here. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office at [email protected] or 416-392-7012.
The Nitta Gelatin plant has been a longstanding issue here in our community and has operated in one way or another for a very long time. Over the years, I have been working with members of the community, our local MPPs and Nitta Gelatin to identify ways to reduce or eliminate the impact of these odours on our community. Nitta's operations fall under Provincial jurisdiction, with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change providing oversight.
In the summer, I met with Nitta and brought the Deputy City Manager with me to find out where Nitta stood on their odour abatement measures. The meeting was positive with Nitta providing a brief history and update on the measures they are currently undertaking. During the meeting I reiterated to Nitta the negative impacts that the odours are having on our community and that additional measures must take place. I also expressed my concerns in a letter directly to the Province as Nitta sought an updated Environmental Compliance Approval in order to implement additional odour abatement measures.
In the fall, my office attended a meeting with Nitta, MPP Martins and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Nitta is currently investing money and undertaking new measures to reduce and eliminate the odours being emitted from their plant. Their odour mitigation process should be fully operational by January 2016. An evaluation of their progress will take place during a six-month testing period by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. I am hopeful to see positive results from these latest measures and will continue to advocate on behalf of our community for an acceptable solution.
I am happy to report that the Argyle Street contra-flow bicycle lanes are now complete from Dovercourt Rd to Gladstone Ave. This lane connects to the Florence street bike lane, as part the City's strategy to better connect Toronto's west end. Parking signage will be updated as parking will no longer seasonally alternate from side to side. The Annette-Dupont-Dundas intersection just to the west of Ward 18 has also been painted to better reflect where the bike lane is for both motorists and cyclists coming into Ward 18. The photo shows the painting in progress.
The City is proposing a pilot project to install bike lanes on Bloor St W between Shaw St and Avenue Rd. This pilot project is an important step in investing in safer and more accessible cycling infrastructure and it will support cycling as a sustainable commuting option to ease our congested urban areas. I am looking forward to working with Ward 18 residents, BIAs, and other stakeholders on the impacts and benefits of bike lanes on Bloor St W. Please take a moment to have your say on the various possible design options for bike lanes that are being considered. You can take the survey at: http://cityoftoronto.fluidsurveys.com/s/bloorbikelanes-survey1/
Rooming House Fire
Toronto Fire has laid charges against the owner of an illegal rooming house where a fire broke out in November. Thankfully nobody was fatally injured as a result of the fire but it further highlights how important the ongoing rooming house review being undertaken by the City is and how important enforcement efforts are. Rooming houses are a form of housing but we cannot allow slum landlords to ignore the rules and put people's lives at risk. If you suspect that a house is an illegal rooming house, contact 311 to submit a service request for investigation by Municipal Licensing & Standards staff. An Officer will be assigned to investigate the complaint.
Leadership on Affordable Housing
City of Toronto Opens the Door to Delivering Real Action on Building More Affordable Housing
On November 19, as Toronto's Housing Advocate and Chair of the Affordable Housing Committee I joined Mayor John Tory in unveiling a new Open Door program to fast track affordable housing across Toronto.
The Open Door program brings together critical elements needed to kick-start affordable rental and ownership housing construction: surplus public land designated for new affordable rental and ownership housing; fast-tracked planning approvals through a Gold Star review process; additional City financial incentives and federal/provincial funding.
It also calls on the federal and provincial governments to speed the delivery of affordable housing by releasing surplus public land, making new investments in affordable housing and increasing financial and tax incentives for developers.
The Open Door program to fast track affordable housing includes:
- activating five surplus City sites for the construction of 389 affordable rental and ownership homes
- releasing an inventory of 13 other City sites with affordable housing potential
- encouraging the private sector to build more affordable housing by offering City financial incentives currently limited to non-profit groups
- supporting the creation of 200 affordable ownership homes annually through a development charges deferral initiative, and
- providing a minimum of 500 housing allowances to increase affordability in buildings constructed under Open Door.
Affordable housing is critical to the social and economic health of Torontonians. The Open Door program is about a comprehensive approach to stimulating new affordable rental and ownership homes to deliver real results for residents.
The announcement was made on a property known as Block 36 North, surplus City land zoned for affordable housing that has been vacant for more than 20 years. A request for proposals (RFP) based on Open Door incentives will be issued in early 2016 to select a developer. Funding for the new Block 36 affordable housing site will be obtained partly through a Ward 20 Section 37 agreement under the Planning Act.
A report outlining the Open Door Program was passed at the December City Council meeting. The report also requests staff to bring forward the implementation plan on a range of Open Door initiatives and ways to make the program permanent by May 2016. You can read this report by clicking here. The Toronto Star also released an editorial titled "A welcome affordable housing action plan" on the Open Door Program that you can read by clicking here.
National Housing Week Activities
National Housing Week took place during the week of November 16, 2015 this year. As Toronto's Housing Advocate I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of housing related events and activities including the second annual Canada 2020 conference and Evergreen CityWorks Housing Action Lab Panel on the role of the private sector in building housing affordability and affordable housing. Canada 2020 is Canada's leading, independent, progressive think-tank working to redefine the role of the federal government for a modern Canada. Events like these are so important to have a robust dialogue about on housing issues here in Toronto and across Canada. If you would like to watch my conversation with the new Chief of Staff to the Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities at the Canada 2020 conference please click here. You can read more about the Evergreen CityWorks GTA Housing Action Lab here.
City Building Fund
Some of you may have heard in the news that Mayor Tory has proposed a new City Building Fund to help fund much needed investments in transit and housing. I believe that this proposed City Building Fund takes a positive and necessary step in the right direction of building a city that cares. As a result, I released a statement announcing my support for this proposal. You can read my full statement by clicking here.
The Rising Cost of Home Ownership
Just last week I had the opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers at a day long conference discussing housing affordability and the release of a report on understanding shelter affordability issues. It was wonderful to see industry leaders, academics, students, and government come together to collectively learn and discuss the impacts on the rental and ownership housing markets and potential solutions. A key takeaway of my remarks is that we have faced many challenges in creating affordable rental and ownership opportunities in the past but that the City is working on many different areas to help address this issue which is facing almost everyone in our city. To read the report and to find out more information about the conference, please click here.
Housing Opportunities Toronto Review
The City of Toronto is conducting a five-year review of Housing Opportunities Toronto – An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 (HOT) to see what has and hasn't worked well and to receive valuable feedback on how the City can improve its affordable housing and homelessness efforts. I had the pleasure of attending some of the public meetings - hearing directly from Torontonians on how to do this. The City has completed its public consultation meetings but you can still provide suggestions by e-mail. You can find out more about the City's efforts and contribute to the consultation until January 15, 2016 by clicking here.
Affordable Housing Committee
One of my duties on Toronto City Council is to Chair the Affordable Housing Committee. The Committee oversees the activities of the Affordable Housing Office. Some of these activities include directing federal and provincial government investments in new affordable rental and ownership housing in partnership with private and non-profit developers. We held our last Committee meeting of the year on November 26 and approved the construction of more affordable housing in Toronto, the Open Door Program report, provided funding on new transitional housing for young victims of exploitation and trafficking, and received an update on Housing Access Initiatives currently in development by the City. We also thanked all of the organizations and people who helped on the Close the Housing Gap Campaign. You can view the Meeting Agenda by clicking here and my Chair's Update by clicking here.
Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club Christmas Concert - Wednesday December 16, 2015 from 6:30pm to 9pm at 180 Westmoreland Ave
St. Anne's Community Cantate - Sunday December 20, 2015 at 3pm at 270 Gladstone Ave
"We Sing For Their Supper" A Holiday Concert for the Daily Bread Food Bank - Sunday December 20, 2015 at 7:30pm at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St W
Galleria Mall Development Open House - Saturday January 23, 2016 - Time and Location TBD
Ward 18 2016 Budget Town Hall - Saturday January 30, 2015 from 2pm to 4pm at Bloor Gladstone Library
George Chuvalo honoured by community centre proposal (Video) - CityNews
Affordable housing for artists aims to keep them in Toronto - Toronto Star
Torontonians of all faiths stand in solidarity amid recent rash of hate crimes against Muslims - Bloor West Villager
A welcome affordable housing action plan - Toronto Star
This is what Toronto's newest library will look like - BlogTO
Tory's big shift: building the city, and paying for it: Ed Keenan - Toronto Star
Toronto council doesn't want Davenport rail bridge - Toronto Star
This is what Toronto's new gallery district looks like - BlogTO
Plan for a new Perth/Dupont library gets vote from council - Bloor West Villager
Parks Forestry and Recreation is developing a 20-year Facilities Master Plan (FMP) to guide decision-making and investment in parks and recreation facilities such as community centres, ice rinks, weight rooms, and sports fields. A staff report providing an update on the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan was approved by Council's Executive Committee on October 20, 2015.
The first Facilities Master Plan survey was launched on December 1, 2015. This survey is an opportunity for people to tell us about their experience and use of parks and recreation facilities, and what's important to them. See the survey news release.
The City wants to hear from people who:
- Use indoor and outdoor facilities to skate, swim, exercise, play sports, permit space or attend programs.
- Live near, or are familiar with any type of indoor or outdoor facility
- Don't use parks and recreation facilities, but have thoughts and ideas to share
I encourage you to complete the survey, and to share it widely with your networks.
Public and stakeholder involvement is essential to develop this plan. The FMP engagement strategy includes multiple opportunities for participation through public surveys, town hall meetings, focus groups and online discussion questions. Details on these activities will be posted in the project website.
To learn more about the FMP and sign up for regular project e-updates, please visit the project website at www.toronto.ca/parks/facilitiesplan.
City of Toronto Music Strategy Consultation
The City of Toronto is requesting public input through a music survey that will help define the City's new music strategy being developed for City Council's consideration. The online survey will be available until December 31, 2015 and you can access it by clicking here.
The City of Toronto is also asking artists to continue applying to its Music 311 program. Music 311, which has featured songs from more than 45 artists since its launch in July 2015, showcases original music written and recorded by Toronto-based artists for call-hold playback on the City’s 311 customer service line. Interested artists are asked to the review submission guidelines and program details at http://www.toronto.ca/music.
Details about the City's current music initiatives are also available at the above web address.
"Create Memories, Not Garbage" Campaign
This holiday season, the City of Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services Division is encouraging residents to "think green" and participate in their "Create Memories, Not Garbage" campaign.
Toronto manages about 1 million tonnes of waste each year. In 2014, residents in single family homes diverted 66% of waste from landfill and residents in apartments and condos diverted 26%. Together, Toronto diverted 53% of waste from landfill disposal.
The City is committed to continuing to improve waste diversion efforts and moving closer to the goal of achieving 70% waste diversion to preserve the long-term capacity of our Green Lane Landfill. Holiday season traditions can be celebrated while reducing the amount of garbage that we generate, and we encourage residents to think first about reducing the amount of waste we generate, then consider reuse or recycling before disposal. You can be a #GreenAngel too!
Instead of purchasing gifts, please consider:
- Baking treats for family and friends;
- Making a gift or homemade decorations;
- Offering a service like pet sitting; or
- Giving to charity or planting a tree in someone's name.
Safety Information System for Sexual Violence Alerts
The Safety Information System (SIS) is a new way for Toronto residents to get and share information about sexual violence. People who subscribe on www.metrac.org/sisto will get: police-issued crime alerts and relevant news stories; prevention information to challenge violence individually and in your communities; information about safety-related events and projects; inspiring, creative messages and materials on reducing violence and building safer spaces; and an opportunity to submit your own creative anti-violence messages, art and useful information to send out through SIS
Messages will get to those who sign up through the channels they choose (e.g. text, voice, email, app, social media). This project is funded by the City of Toronto and supported by Toronto Police Services. For more information about the project, visit www.metrac.org/sisto.
Here Comes the Snow (Eventually)
A Canadian winter can sometimes mean a lot of snow, and the City of Toronto is ready. Here are a few things that you can expect as we gear up for another winter in Toronto.
Prior to the onset of a storm, Transportation Services will be applying a layer of salt brine to hills and bridges throughout the city. The application of salt brine is intended to prevent the snow from bonding to the pavement, making it easier to plow the snow.
As soon as the snow begins, Transportation Services sends out its salt trucks to the expressways and main roads. Local roads and laneways are salted soon after this. Plowing will begin on the expressways when 2 centimeters of snow have accumulated, and then the main roads when 5 centimeters has accumulated. Plowing on the expressways and main roads will continue until the operation is complete.
When the snow stops and if the snow accumulation reaches eight centimeters, local road plowing will begin, and is usually completed between 14-16 hours after the snow stops falling. During this time, residents are asked not to call 311 during the storm to ask when their street will be plowed, and should only call to report urgent winter related calls only.
The City has identified a priority network of bike lanes and cycle tracks in the downtown core that will receive enhanced winter maintenance this winter, including snow plowing and salting to improve safety for cyclists.
The City will only open driveway windrows wherever it is mechanically possible to do so after 8 centimeters of snow has fallen. They are typically opened one to two hours after the road is plowed, and is meant to only open up a width of about 3 metres – not the full width of the driveway.
The City will clear snow from sidewalks on roads with high pedestrian traffic, and on bus routes where it is mechanically possible to do so, after 2 centimeters of snow has fallen. In the central core of the city, property owners must to clear their sidewalks 12 hours after a storm has taken place. To learn more about sidewalk snow clearing in Toronto and to view a map of the areas where the service is provided, click here.
If you would like more information about the city's plans for snow clearing, please visit http://www.toronto.ca/transportation
Snow Clearing for Seniors and People with Disabilities in Toronto
If you are a senior or disabled resident of Toronto, the City will clear snow from the sidewalk in front of your home in those areas where the service is not provided by machine.
The City of Toronto provides sidewalk snow clearing in most of Toronto; however, there are some areas where equipment is unable to clear sidewalks due to insufficient sidewalk width for the plows, lack of boulevard space for snow storage, and on-street parking. Most of these areas are in the older, central parts of the city. A map showing the areas where the city provides mechanical sidewalk snow clearing is available here.
Seniors and people with disabilities living in areas where the city does not clear sidewalks can contact the City at 311 to register for the program. The service applies to the sidewalk in front of the home only. It does not include driveways or walkways leading to homes. All participants in the program must renew annually to continue to receive the service.