I sincerely hope that you had a great thanksgiving last weekend with family and friends. Some of you may have even spent it with our Blue Jays, cheering them on in the MLB playoffs. A great way to watch the game is at Toronto City Hall in the "Birds Nest" (a.k.a Nathan Phillips Square) where thousands of Torontonians have come together to watch and celebrate our playoff run. Here's hoping that we can come from behind and beat the Kansas City Royals to advance to the World Series!
It was also great to celebrate and come together with community members at the McCormick Park Festival, the Railpath Run, the Bloordale Laneway Crawl, the Parkdale Flames home opener, and so many activities that happened the past month in Ward 18. I hope that you were able to enjoy some of these activities as well. There are two pumpkin lighting events coming up in our community and more details about them are included in this month's e-newsletter.
Tomorrow is also election day where Canadians from all across our great country will be casting their ballots to elect Members of Parliament who will represent them in Ottawa. This is our opportunity to elect a federal government that understands and supports our urban centres.
Cities all across Canada are the economic engines of our country that create jobs, drive growth and develop opportunities for everyone to succeed. In order to do those things effectively, our cities need collaboration from the federal government. Things like the lack of transit funding, housing affordability, income inequality, and other issues are barriers to our collective growth and prosperity as an economy and society.
As Toronto's Housing Advocate, I know too well of the issues affecting our ability to own or rent a home in the city, to fix or build new public housing, or to protect economically diverse neighbourhoods. Our housing stock is under incredible pressure! This coupled with ever-rising income inequality means that one in four residents spend more than 30% of their income on shelter costs. It has made some neighbourhoods totally unaffordable and waiting lists for public housing are at record highs.
This is an issue affecting cities from coast to coast to coast of our country and they cannot tackle it alone! We need a federal government that has a strong urban agenda and shares in the belief that affordable housing is part of the bedrock of what makes our society work and makes us proud and successful Canadians: concepts of equality, diversity, opportunity, bringing communities together and prosperity. So whatever your plans are for tomorrow, please make sure to exercise your democratic right and vote.
Yours in community,
Ward 18, Davenport
Lansdowne Ave Resurfacing from Bloor St W to Wallace Ave
The City of Toronto is resurfacing Lansdowne Ave from Bloor St W to Wallace Ave. Work started on October 6 and is projected to end on November 13. The work is part of the City's comprehensive and coordinated strategy to rehabilitate and upgrade our roads for current and future needs and is part of the Council-approved 2015 Capital Works Program. To view the full construction notice please click here.
Bloor Street West Planning Review
At the October 6, 2015 Toronto and East York Community Council meeting, the neighbouring Councillor for Ward 19, Mike Layton and I moved a motion to request a review of development on Bloor Street West, between Christie Street and Lansdowne Avenue.
The ten blocks of Bloor Street West, between Christie Street and Lansdowne Avenue, are unique in the City of Toronto due to the fact that much of the original built form still remains. Many of these two and three storey buildings were designed and built at the turn of the 20th century, with further development taking place between the 1920s and 1930s.
The purpose of this City Planning review is to focus on the unique character of the properties along Bloor Street West, between Christie Street and Lansdowne Avenue, and how to effectively plan for new development that will complement the existing built form and heritage attributes.
The request for this review comes at a time when development pressure is making its way to Bloor Street West, between Christie Street and Lansdowne Avenue. To view the recommendations Toronto and East York Community Council has made to Toronto City Council please click here. I look forward to this item being discussed and hopefully passed at the next City Council meeting.
Davenport Diamond Update
Earlier this week, MPP Cristina Martins held a community meeting on Metrolinx's proposed Davenport Community Rail Overpass following the release of their feasibility report on the project. I was there in attendance to listen to what residents had to say and to explain the work that I have been doing to fight for our community, including getting Metrolinx to delay the start of this project in order to receive more community and City feedback. City staff from the City Planning division are working on a report that is currently scheduled to be heard at the November 16, 2015 Planning & Growth Management Committee Meeting. I am also working towards holding a community meeting once the City's report is released.
Ever since this project was announced back in March 2015, I have been advocating to ensure that our community receives the best possible outcome. To see a history of the work that I have done to advocate on your behalf on this issue please click here. To view Metrolinx's feasibility report please click here.
Cycling and Pedestrian Car Magnets
The City's Transportation Services division has created pedestrian and cyclist safety car magnets to highlight the importance of driving safety. You can pick them up at my community office, located at 1240 Bloor Street West between the hours of 10am to 6pm, Wednesday to Friday.
Galleria Mall Update
Earlier this month I met with the new owners of the Galleria Mall property, Elad Canada and Freed Development to discuss what plans they may have for the site. They have informed me that they are still determining what their future plans will be and in the meantime the mall will be operating normally.
To learn more about what was previously approved on the site in 2004 and to read what Toronto's Official Plan says about the lands, please visit this previous post on my website. I will be keeping the community updated every step of the way as more information becomes available.
Lisgar Park Now Open
I am pleased to report that Phase 1 of Lisgar Park (near Queen and Dovercourt) is now open and residents have already started to enjoy the park. There currently is a fence closing off the Phase 2 area of the park, which is next to the condo building at 36 Lisgar St. An opening ceremony will take place sometime in the spring.
Salem-Westmoreland Park Construction
Construction at Salem-Westmoreland Park is progressing nicely. The contractor has installed all underground utilities, granular base, concrete pavement & curbs, plinth for artwork, musical instruments and the sandbox. Landscaping, fencing, asphalt and a water bottle refill station will be installed after the playground and exercise equipment are installed in the coming weeks.
Solar Panel Installation at 14 Division
Please be advised that a small solar photovoltaic (PV) system will be installed on the roof of 14 Division (350 Dovercourt Rd.) over the next two months. The system, which is 10 kilowatts in size, will generate about 11,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity per year, offsetting the amount of power used by the average home in Toronto. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 500 kg annually, and 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.
Carlton Park Pumpkin Lighting - Sunday November 1, 2015 from 6:30pm to 11pm
Bring your jack-o-lanterns (with a tealight inside), line them up around the wading pool, and light them in a dazzling display of Halloween creativity that will delight children and adults alike. At midnight, the lights will be doused and the pumpkins left at the park for pick up the next day for composting.
McCormick Park Pumpkin Lighting - Sunday November 1, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
Bring your jack-o-lanterns and candles to the west side of the park, and light them up! Pumpkins will be collected the following morning for composting by the City. Hot drinks and snacks will be available at the McCormick Park Container Cafe.
YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard Festival) 2015 - Saturday October 31 from 11am to 3pm
The annual YIMBY Festival provides a social space for people and groups involved in grassroots, locally driven community development to gather, exchange ideas and strategies to affect change, and imagine their future city. This free, one-day event invites community groups and not profits from across Toronto to educate residents, politicians, policy makers, and each other through informal table discussions and presentations. YIMBY provides an opportunity for neighbours to meet neighbours, residents to meet politicians, and politicians to meet community groups in the spirit of people coming together for positive change. The event is free and is taking place at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University (55 Dundas Street West). You can find out more information at www.yimbytoronto.org.
Homes for Dinner Event
I will be participating as a host in the Homes for Dinner event, taking place on November 21, 2015. 500 guests buy tickets. 50 hosts agree to host a dinner party – 4 courses with wine and guaranteed interesting conversations. But here’s the twist… guests don’t know where they are going and hosts don’t know who is coming to dinner until the night of the event. On Nov 21st guests gather for a pre-dinner reception with cocktails at William Ashley. They exchange their ticket for an envelope. Inside, the name of their host is revealed. Guests then depart to all parts of the city for dinner parties and new friends. This great event is organized by Homes First, which celebrates the importance of home to raise funds for Toronto's homeless. Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy great food and interesting company, all while serving a great cause. Tickets are $150, and can be purchased at: http://homesfordinner.ca/be-a-guest
It has been a busy month for me as Toronto's Housing Advocate as I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of different housing related announcements and activities ranging from announcing new public investments and partnerships in Toronto Community Housing to calling on our federal political parties to make affordable housing commitments.
TCH TAF TowerWise Retrofit Announcement
On Tuesday September 22 I had the pleasure in announcing the TowerWise Retrofit Project – a partnership between the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCH). TAF is investing $4.2 million to implement energy efficiency upgrades in seven TCH buildings across Toronto. This project will help create local jobs, improve the environment, reduce carbon emissions, save TCH money, and improve the health and comfort of TCH residents. Supporting this partnership is one example of how the City is working hard to improve the quality of life for TCH residents. With further investment from all levels of government, I sincerely hope that we can make these types of projects a reality in all TCH buildings across Toronto.
Big City Mayors' Caucus Meeting
In late September, Toronto hosted a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City Mayors' Caucus to specifically discuss the issue of affordable housing. The Mayors of Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, London, Kitchener, and Halifax came together and urged all federal political party leaders to play a leadership role on the issue. Affordable housing is an issue that is directly related to the issue that all federal political leaders have decided to focus on during this election campaign: the economy and jobs. I was honoured to participate in their meeting, tour the YWCA's Elm Centre and kick off the press conference. Hopefully following October 19, our federal government will have a renewed focus and energy on this very important issue.
TCH ReSet Announcement
On September 25 I had the pleasure of helping to announce the launch of ReSet, an innovative approach to capital repairs being piloted in three TCH communities with nearly 900 households. The ReSet program will bundle multiple capital repair jobs in each community and deliver them as one project, resulting in cost savings, faster repairs and safer communities. I am excited that the ReSet program will engage Toronto Community Housing residents while providing quicker, less disruptive and significant capital repairs to their communities. With new investment from the provincial and federal governments, I am confident that we can make the ReSet program a reality in Toronto Community Housing buildings across Toronto. To find out more about this program please click here.
World Habitat Day
The first Monday in October is World Habitat Day and I had the opportunity to read the Mayoral proclamation on behalf of Mayor Tory.
"World Habitat Day is a time to reflect on the state of our cities and towns, emphasize everyone's right to adequate shelter and to remind the world that we all have the power and a responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.
This year's theme, "Public Spaces for All," sheds light on the importance of providing public spaces that enhance community cohesion and promote health, happiness, and the well-being of all citizens.
The City of Toronto's affordable housing and homelessness initiatives are guided by Toronto's Affordable Housing Action Plan, 2010–2020. It is a plan that helps to affirm the City's commitment to continue working with its partners to address housing needs.
This year, with the assistance of the federal and provincial governments and private and non-profit groups, the City of Toronto is opening 217 affordable rental and ownership homes, while assisting more than 2,500 residents with home repairs."
Lawrence Heights Announcement
Earlier this week, I joined my colleagues Mayor John Tory and Councillor Josh Colle in announcing that phase one of the Lawrence Heights Revitalization project will be getting underway. Prior to the announcement I had the pleasure of meeting with some local residents to discuss life in Lawrence Heights, the revitalization, and their future hopes and dreams. I strongly believe that everyone in our city deserves a secure home where they can build their dreams and enjoy a better life and this partnership will help deliver real results for residents in the vibrant Lawrence Heights community with new, clean, safe, and affordable homes. I am particularly excited by the creation of local employment opportunities and scholarships for residents in Lawrence Heights as part of the revitalization. To find out more about the project please read this backgrounder.
Housing Survey of Federal Candidates Released
The results of a housing survey of election candidates in Toronto's 25 federal ridings was released earlier this week. The three-question survey was sent to 100 Conservative, Green, Liberal and New Democrat candidates. Some 20 individual responses from 14 ridings came back: 10 Liberal, six Green and four New Democrat. There were no responses from Conservative candidates. In addition, the Liberal and New Democratic parties sent responses on behalf of all of their Toronto candidates. Combined with the individual replies, this represents a response rate of 56%.
All the responses can be found at: http://www.putpeoplefirst.ca
The people of Toronto expect long-term financial commitments from their governments to maintain our social housing communities, create new affordable homes and repair social housing. These responses can help them decide which party meets that test.
Affordable Housing Infographics
Our city is in an affordable housing crisis. One in five households are paying more than half their income on rent. This federal election can be a turning point for a renewed federal role in affordable housing – a role that the federal government used to play proudly.
We know that there is a strong business case for the provincial and federal governments to invest in TCH units and prevent the closure of 7,582 units by 2023. We know that if there are more affordable rental and home ownership opportunities for Torontonians, we can create a solid foundation for hundreds of thousands of people.
The City is doing what it can with the powers that we have to address this pressing need. We have committed to fund a fair one thirds share of TCH's 10-year capital plan. Mayor Tory and I announced the Open Door Program earlier this year and the first results are currently before City Council with 82 new affordable units proposed to be built on the City's 200 Madison Ave site. Work is currently underway to identify even more opportunities to build affordable housing.
I also believe that we have a moral obligation to ensure that our most vulnerable Torontonians have a safe and decent place to call home.
There are 93,515 households on the affordable housing waitlist in the City of Toronto alone. 40% of those households include children under 17 years of age. Another 34% of those households are seniors. If we fail to act now, we will be letting generations of our children and seniors down.
As a way to raise awareness, my office has developed a series of affordable housing related infographics based on publicly available facts and figures. I am encouraging you to utilize these infographics in any way you feel necessary to advance our City's affordable housing needs through social media.
You can download these easy to share jpeg images by clicking here.
Sterling Rd. gets an artistic polish - Toronto Star
Is Dupont the Next Ossington? - NOW Magazine
Big city mayors demand big funding for social housing - Global News
Why Mayor John Tory shouldn't privatize garbage collection in the city's east end - Toronto Sun
Toronto should not be tops in child poverty - Toronto Star
Protect your pipes from freezing this winter
With the cold weather approaching, it is important to take steps now to protect your pipes from freezing, which can leave you with no water and cause your pipes to burst, leading to expensive property damage. The most important step is to insulate the pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls, and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. It is also important to seal air leaks around windows and doors, and to disconnect hoses and drain the outdoor water supply before the first frost. For more helpful tips, visit http://toronto.ca/frozenpipes.
As fall arrives and the temperatures drop, it is important to remind everyone that open air burning in backyards is not permitted in the City of Toronto. This includes outdoor fireplaces, bonfires, fire pits, flying lanterns and sky lanterns. Gas fire pits, such as those in patio campfire units that are ULC and CSA approved, as well as food preparation units are considered acceptable, as long as they are supervised at all times and are operated safely and properly. To find out more about the open air burning rules please click here. Let's make sure to do our part to avoid house fires and to keep our air smoke free.
CITY COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS
Toronto City Council met on September 30 and October 1 and 2, 2015. Council Highlights is an informal summary of decisions made by Toronto City Council. The City Clerk provides the formal documentation at http://www.toronto.ca/council.
Taxis, limos and Uber
Council voted to ask staff to report in 2016 on a way to equitably regulate all providers of ground transportation – including taxis, limousines and Uber vehicles – and to begin consulting on regulations that will ensure a "level playing field" for providers and take into account the City of Toronto's accessibility objectives. In addition, Council voted to reduce the starting fare of licensed taxis from $4.25 to $3.25 effective November 1.
Resettlement of Syrian refugees
Council approved a detailed proposal for a Syrian refugee resettlement program in Toronto and asked Mayor Tory to send a letter to the Prime Minister requesting funding assistance for the program in areas such as affordable housing, social assistance and child care. This resettlement initiative is consistent with the Toronto Newcomer Strategy adopted in 2013, which recognizes the City's role in the successful settlement/integration of immigrants and refugees in Toronto.
Review of City of Toronto Act
Council approved amendments that the City will propose to the province of Ontario for consideration as part of the province's current review of the City of Toronto Act, 2006. The City's submission will also include a series of comments from Council involving the Municipal Elections Act on matters such as ranked-choice (also known as ranked-ballot) voting, ward boundaries and candidate spending limits in municipal elections.
Rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway
Council approved a plan for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway from end to end. Council authorized staff to proceed with an alternative financing and procurement/P3 approach, including a request for proposals (RFP) – subject to the federal government approving funding to cover one-third of capital construction costs that are eligible for federal funding. In addition, Council supported arranging for a third-party review of the proposed financial calculations ("value-for-money analysis") for the project. The Gardiner Expressway has been in service for almost 60 years and the concrete deck on the elevated section is near the end of its design life.
Closing the housing gap
Council agreed to urge federal election candidates in Toronto ridings to commit to action on city housing issues. Council wants the federal government to "close the housing gap" by covering one-third of Toronto Community Housing's 10-year capital repair needs, creating a long-term affordable housing strategy, reversing the withdrawal of funds from non-profit and co-operative housing, and reinvesting those funds back into social housing to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income Canadians.
Standards for emergency shelters
Council approved an updated version of the Toronto Shelter Standards. The document, produced with extensive stakeholder involvement, provides expectations for service delivery that will help the City establish consistency in its delivery of shelter services that are client-centred and respectful of client diversity. The City's homeless shelter system consists of about 4,000 shelter beds funded by the City at 59 locations across Toronto.
Review of Paramedic Services
Council called for a consultation process involving the union and paramedics as well as other front-line staff addressing Toronto Paramedic Services' five-year plan and efforts to improve employee engagement and morale. A related report says management anticipates that recent increases to staffing and improvements to equipment, technology, communications and infrastructure, as proposed in the five-year plan, will continue to improve workplace conditions, employee engagement and the morale of frontline staff.
Green spaces for healthy city living
Council adopted recommendations from the Board of Health in support of providing plentiful, diverse, well-maintained green spaces as important features of a healthy city. Presented under the title Green City: Why Nature Matters to Health, the board's recommendations address matters such as Toronto's tree canopy, school green spaces/sports facilities, and investment in green spaces in the City's designated neighbourhood improvement areas.
Increased fines for parking infractions
Council authorized increased fines for vehicle parking and stopping infractions as part of the City's efforts to manage and reduce traffic congestion. The new fine amounts include substantial increases – set at $150 instead of the current $60 – for stopping illegally on sidewalks, in transit areas or too close to intersections, and for parking in live lanes of traffic. Fines for no-parking offences (expired pay-and-display receipt) are increasing from $40 to $50.
Council approved changes to hourly rates and hours of operation for on-street parking at certain locations that have pay-and-display parking machines. The changes, which follow a Toronto Parking Authority review of the on-street parking program, will align hours of operation more closely with periods of higher parking demand at the designated locations. Council adopted an amendment to the agenda item to address the matter of musicians unloading equipment at music venues on streets affected by the parking-fee changes.
Staff received Council's authorization to finalize a contract with the company chosen in a formal bid process to supply, install, operate, maintain and eventually remove red-light camera systems at selected Toronto intersections for the five-year period from 2017 to 2021. The current phase of the red-light camera program runs to the end of 2016. Red-light camera operations have been found to reduce the frequency of red-light running and the severity of collisions.
Progress on shared internal services
Council authorized proceeding with the implementation of shared services for learning/training, insurance, procurement and information technology as part of a shared services project involving City divisions, agencies and corporations. Begun in 2014, the project aims to reduce duplication and costs.
Food services at City Hall
Council supported establishing an advisory committee composed of members of the public with experience in the food industry to explore having a social enterprise food service provide food services in Toronto City Hall. The current lease with City Hall's Café on the Square restaurant will be extended beyond the current expiry date of December 31 until the City has a new agreement in place for food services at City Hall. Council decided to defer pursuing the idea of a restaurant development for Nathan Phillips Square.
Public access to private pools
A motion asking staff to look into the possibility of pursuing agreements with condominium boards for public use of their swimming facilities received Council's support. The motion noted that some condominium buildings have pools with entrances that would enable members of the public to access the pool without entering other private space. As envisioned, this initiative would enhance year-round swimming instruction across Toronto by making the participating condo boards recreation partners with the City.
Maple Leaf Forever tree projects
Council directed staff to give the Toronto Archives complete documentation, including digital photographs, of all Maple Leaf Forever Tree projects. A total of 65 individual projects, 153 unique designs and 4,025 individual items were produced from the wood of the Maple Leaf Forever Tree. The tree, a silver maple at 62 Laing St. that is believed to have been the inspiration for Alexander Muir's song Maple Leaf Forever, was felled by a storm in 2013.
Photo Laureate for Toronto
Council approved the terms of reference for a Photo Laureate. An appointment to the new, honorary position is expected in 2016. Similar to the Poet Laureate, who is the City's official champion of poetry and literary arts, the Photo Laureate will be the City's official champion of photography and visual culture. A panel will be convened to nominate a candidate every three years, as is done with the Poet Laureate.