Building New Affordable Housing and Bike Lanes, COVID-19 Updates - May 29th
We are currently facing both a great crisis and a historic opportunity to build a stronger and fairer city. For decades, governments have ignored advice from public health experts, and now we are seeing the consequences.
We need to use a public health lens to end chronic homelessness by creating a range of secure, affordable housing options. Public health should also inform how we redesign our public spaces. We need to open our streets so people can exercise, children can play, and families can run errands with enough space to stay safe. We need to build a grid of protected bike lanes, so that more people can commute and get around the city by bike, opening up space on the TTC for riders to physically distance.
I’m thrilled to share that yesterday City Council voted to take important next steps to advance this work. Please continue reading below for updates on building new bike lanes and affordable housing, supporting our small music venues, and ensuring safe physical distancing in our parks and on our streets.
There’s still a great amount of work to be done, but with all of us continuing to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, I know we can get through this and build a better city together.
In this Edition
- Expanding Our Cycling Grid - Bike Lanes on University, Bloor, and Danforth
- City-Owned Land in CityPlace to Become Affordable Rental Housing
- Property Tax Relief for Toronto’s Live Music Venues
- Making our Parks Safe for Physical Distancing
- The Importance of Data During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- ActiveTO Road Closures this Weekend
- Update on Toronto Islands Ferry Service
- Take Action: Toronto in Crisis - It’s Time for a New Deal for Toronto
- Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
- Lake Ontario Water Levels and Flood Mitigation Update
- Gardiner Expressway Construction this Weekend
- Supporting Toronto’s Arts and Cultural Sector
- Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
- Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Community and Social Supports for Torontonians
- Supporting Local Businesses
- Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 When Spending Time Outdoors
- Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
Expanding Our Cycling Grid - Bike Lanes on University, Bloor, and Danforth
It’s official: City Council voted to approve ActiveTO’s expansion of cycling infrastructure, including new separated bike lanes on University Ave. These lanes will help front-line and health care workers get to work safely, while connecting to the city’s growing cycling grid.
Along with Councillor Layton, I’m proud to have fought for bike lanes on University, which are supported by many physicians, health care workers, and hospitals along this stretch including SickKids and University Health Network.
This pandemic has forced us all to reconsider how we get around the city. The new bike lanes on University, Bloor, Danforth, and across the city will help to alleviate pressure on public transit, and provide more space for physical distancing.
Cities across the world are opening up streets to create more space for safe physical distancing. Expanding our cycling grid is the right thing to do — for our health care workers, for our own mental and physical health, and for the health and safety of our city.
City-Owned Land in CityPlace to Become Affordable Rental Housing
As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our city’s affordable housing crisis has taken on an even greater urgency. For years, we’ve known that housing and public health are directly connected. Now, it’s more important than ever that we take action, and invest in a range of housing solutions to meet all needs.
Back in February, I called for a report on recommendations for building new affordable rental housing at Block 36 North in CityPlace. Yesterday, City Council voted to approve the development of Block 36 North, located at 150 Queen’s Wharf Road, as one of six sites in the City’s Housing Now program for building affordable housing.
Block 36 North is a piece of City-owned, undeveloped land in CityPlace, located north of the Fort York Library branch. It’s the last piece of undeveloped land in the area, and was originally slated for affordable housing in 2015. However, a series of development challenges meant that the initial proposal to create 80 affordable rental units for low and moderate-income households was not able to proceed.
Now, with Council’s approval, affordable housing in Block 36 North will be able to go forward. City staff have confirmed that they are working hard to maximize the number of affordable homes in the project, above and beyond the 80 units previously planned. I will share more details as soon as they become available.
Property Tax Relief for Toronto’s Live Music Venues
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit live music venues especially hard. We must find new ways to support our local musicians and live music industry, and to ensure that it emerges more inclusive and sustainable than before the pandemic.
Yesterday, Toronto City Council approved our recommendations to help address the unprecedented challenges threatening live music venues in Toronto. Council has expanded the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses to provide property tax relief for live music venues.
The new category will apply to live music venues that meet specific eligibility criteria.
Toronto’s live music venues make a vital contribution to the city’s economic, social and cultural life and these businesses need critical support in the face of ongoing pressures that threaten to close dozens of local venues — pressures that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses were established by City Council and the Province of Ontario to support the affordability and sustainability of cultural and creative spaces in Toronto. This tax relief mechanism was first made available in 2018 for qualifying properties acting as creative hubs with creative tenants. In 2019, the criteria were expanded to include membership-based co-working facilities for creative workers and enterprises.
The expansion of the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses to include live music venues is part of the City’s COVID-19 recovery efforts and is consistent with Council directives to promote Toronto as a city that values music and musicians. It is intended that this measure will remain in place beyond this year to support the long-term viability of the live music sector.
The deadline for eligible live music venues to apply is June 19. Applications are available at: https://www.toronto.ca/business-economy/business-operation-growth/business-incentives/creative-co-location-facilities-property-tax-subclass-designation/
Making our Parks Safe for Physical Distancing
Getting outside and enjoying the warm weather is important for our physical and mental health. But to keep everyone safe, we need to ensure appropriate measures are in place.
Last Saturday, we saw overcrowding and behaviour at Trinity Bellwoods Park that violated physical distancing directives and put people at risk. Going forward, we are adopting new measures to ensure that everyone can enjoy our parks and outdoor spaces safely.
Yesterday, white circles were painted on the grass throughout Trinity Bellwoods, to support physical distancing. The circles are 10 to 12 feet apart. This is a pilot initiative, and if it’s successful, will be expanded to other parks and greenspaces across the city. Park washrooms in Trinity Bellwoods will also open this weekend, with a two-week phased approach to open washrooms in other parks throughout the city.
In addition, we'll have increased by-law officers present, with city staff providing education and in case of non-compliance, fines. Officers will be stationed at entrances and throughout the park. They will also be instructing park users that drinking alcohol is not currently permitted in the park.
In all city parks and green spaces, any two people who don't live together and fail to keep two metres of distance are contravening municipal and provincial directions, and can be fined. Also, the province’s Emergency Order bans any social gathering of more than five people who aren't in same household.
The City is also taking action to limit crowding at parks along the waterfront, including Sir Casimir Gzowski and Sunnyside Park, Humber Bay Park East and West, and Woodbine Beach, through increased bylaw enforcement officers, and the continued closure of parking lots.
I want to note that many other downtown parks, including Stanley Park, Bickford Park, Christie Pits and Dufferin Grove did not experience the same overcrowding as Trinity Bellwoods this past weekend. Please, if you do not live near Trinity Bellwoods, enjoy your local park instead of travelling. There are many people within a short walk of Trinity Bellwoods who live in small apartments or condos without their own private yards or greenspace, let alone air conditioning. It is not fair to these local residents that visitors are contributing to the challenge of safe physical distancing in the park.
The Importance of Data During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Access to comprehensive public health data is key to an informed, proactive response to COVID-19 outbreaks. That’s why Toronto Public Health has taken the lead in collecting local data, conducting geographic analysis on trends, and releasing maps to show spread in our city.
These maps are useful for informing our approach, but they must be taken in context. COVID-19 has shown up in every area and community across our city. No matter where you live or work, the chance of COVID-19 transmission is very real.
Earlier this week, Dr. de Villa noted that certain areas of our city have higher cases of COVID-19. What this data shows us is that, as in other cities around the world, COVID-19 transmission rates can be tied to social determinants of health — income, race, housing, among others.
The reality is that low-income workers — who we depend on daily for groceries, deliveries, and more — are at greater risk than people who have the luxury of working from home. Families sharing small apartments are at greater risk than the wealthy who can distance in big houses.
This data doesn't say which areas are safe and which ones aren’t. All areas of our city have risks when it comes to COVID-19, as people move around every day for work and other necessities. What it shows us is how clearly COVID-19 preys on poverty — and how we must act now.
Toronto Public Health’s data and maps will inform our immediate response, by showing where to increase proactive testing and outreach. But it also shows that the health of our city depends on how we respond to these real and glaring inequities.
ActiveTO Road Closures this Weekend
To help stop the spread of COVID-19 while allowing for people to spend much needed time outside, vehicle access on parts of some major roads will be closed for walking, running and biking again this Saturday and Sunday.
The following major road closures are planned this weekend, beginning Saturday, May 30 at 6 a.m. until Sunday, May 31 at 11 p.m.:
- Lake Shore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only) from Coxwell Avenue to just south of Woodbine Avenue (Kew Beach Avenue)
- Bayview Avenue from Mill Street to Rosedale Valley Road, and River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue
More information and details about ActiveTO are available at toronto.ca/activeTO
Update on Toronto Islands Ferry Service
The City has announced that ferry service for the public to Toronto Islands will remain suspended until June 30, at the earliest.
Ferry service for the general public has been halted since March due to Transport Canada orders and guidelines limiting capacity on ferry vessels, and Public Health recommendations to avoid crowding. Under these conditions, it has not been possible to operate the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and ferries safely. All public and commercial amenities on the Toronto Islands continue to be closed under Provincial Order, including playgrounds and the Centreville Amusement Park.
Ferry service is currently being provided to Wards Island for Toronto Island residents only, as legislatively required. This service has been adjusted to follow federal guidelines for health and safety.
The City's Office of Recovery and Rebuild continues to work on planning the reopening of City facilities and services, based on the advice of our Public Health experts. Ferry service to the Islands for the public is being reviewed, to develop potential alternative plans that can manage a number of factors, including the physical distancing of lines at each ferry dock location, and new online ticketing technology to limit crowds.
City staff will assess these plans and the status of Provincial Orders in June, as well as evolving public health conditions, to determine if changes can be made to allow ferry service that can follow public health standards.
Toronto Islands are one of our city's most cherished parks, and as warm weather arrives, it is a destination that many residents and visitors look forward to. It is a critical resource for recreation and green space for many of us, but we have to ensure that people can enjoy it safely without putting themselves and others at risk.
While public health data and guidelines will determine when ferry service can resume, the City of Toronto is continuing to increase access to public spaces for people to enjoy through the ActiveTO program. ActiveTO is opening up more space to allow physical distancing outdoors by opening up streets for cyclists and pedestrians, limiting vehicle traffic on quiet streets, and expanding the cycling network across our city, including in the Ward 10 community.
Take Action: Toronto in Crisis - It’s Time for a New Deal for Toronto
We know that our cities can lead the way to recovery and become stronger and more sustainable than ever before — but only if we invest in them. That's why we need a New Deal for cities.
Progress Toronto has put together a petition urging the Federal and Provincial governments to provide immediate financial relief to cities and commit to a new deal that will help build a Toronto that works for everyone.
Just as so many of us are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, COVID-19 emergency spending alongside decades of underfunding has pushed City Hall to a financial breaking point. If our Federal and Provincial partners don't step up, we could see massive cuts to vital services that we all depend on, including increased TTC fares, higher fees for community services and child care, and cuts to libraries, rec centres, and emergency fire services.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Take action and make your voice heard by signing the petition here.
Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and other City division leaders have been providing daily updates on the current situation and response to COVID-19 in Toronto. You can view the daily press conferences live at 3:45pm, and access past updates here.
Today Dr. de Villa spoke about the challenges that many of us have gone through in adjusting to working from home. Given that many have already been working from home for more than two months now, and many employers are finding ways to ensure that working from home can continue through the summer, she shared some advice for healthy working from home habits.
First, create a consistent routine and keep a structured work schedule to help keep you focused. Occupational health experts recommend:
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to make sure that you are getting enough rest. They suggest aiming for eight hours and trying to get up at the same time each day.
- Sharing childcare duties if you have small children and are able to share, and consider splitting the day with your partner.
- Having a regular morning routine, including getting dressed for your day, as if you were going to the office.
- Taking a break to get up to stretch and move around every couple of hours. Go outside for fresh air and sunlight. Consider setting a timer if this is helpful to you.
- Eating well and drinking lots of water. Making sure you have healthy snacks and try to eat your lunch away from your computer.
- Maintaining or starting an exercise routine. Increasing opportunities for daily physical activity have positive impacts on our physical and mental health.
Secondly, while many of us may not have an existing workstation at home, creating a designated work area in your home that is free of clutter can minimize distractions. Our occupational health experts suggest that you should:
- Avoid working from your couch and sitting in awkward posture.
- To maintain good posture, use a chair with good support or use a rolled towel or a cushion for back support. It is also important to ensure that the top of your computer screen is at eye level.
Finally, incorporate movement into your day, rather than staying seated all day. Stretch intermittently throughout the day and consider setting a timer to remind you to get up and move. Stand up while speaking on the phone. Try to get out of the house and go for a walk at lunchtime or another time during the day.
Read Dr. de Villa’s past updates here.
Lake Ontario Water Levels and Flood Mitigation Update
As of May 28, authorities from the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board report that Lake Ontario water levels have peaked for the season, and are expected to continue declining slowly in the coming weeks.
Thanks to the incredible work of City staff and our partners at Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), we were prepared to deal with projected extreme high lake levels this season. Water levels are partly dependent upon spring weather conditions, and this year cooler and drier weather helped us avoid the extreme levels we experienced in 2017 and 2019.
The pro-active mitigation works that have been undertaken by the City and TRCA along Toronto's waterfront and the Islands continue, as they have always been intended to support long-term mitigation towards both high water levels and erosion risks that can be expected in the coming years.
Gardiner Expressway Construction this Weekend
This weekend, the Gardiner Expressway will be fully closed from Highway 427 to the Don Valley Parkway for annual maintenance.
Gardiner Deck and Substructure Repairs- Dufferin Street to Strachan Avenue
The City of Toronto is expediting work to repair the areas (deck soffit and piers) underneath the Gardiner Expressway between Dufferin Street and Strachan Ave.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday
9 a.m. to 7p.m., Saturday and Sunday
Expected Construction Timeline: June 2020-October 2020
Contact: Karolina Kluska, 416-392-9026, [email protected]o.ca
Gardiner Expressway Substructure Repairs- Bay Street to Yonge Street.
The City of Toronto is expediting work to repair the girders and substructure underneath the ramp between Bay Street and Yonge Street.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday
9 a.m. to 7p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Expected Construction Timeline: June 2020-October 2020
Contact: Karolina Kluska, 416-392-9026, [email protected]toronto.ca
Gardiner Expressway – Hammer Sounding Survey from Grand Magazine Street to Dan Leckie Way
The City of Toronto will complete a hammer sounding survey of the Gardiner Expressway over or adjacent to property from Grand Magazine Street to Dan Leckie Way. A hammer sounding inspection consists of striking the bare surface of a concrete deck or pier to help determine its structural condition.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday
Some weekend work as required, 9 a.m .-onward.
Expected Construction Timeline: May 26- June 12
Contact: Philip Greer, 416-392-5284, [email protected]
Supporting Toronto’s Arts and Cultural Sector
Our vibrant arts and cultural sector is critical to the fabric of our city. There are many ways to continue to support Toronto arts and culture from home:
- City Hall Live Online: To help support Toronto artists and lift the spirits of residents during this outbreak, the City of Toronto, in partnership with Unison Benevolent Fund, has moved its City Hall Live performance program online.
- [email protected]: Bringing Toronto’s arts sector together for you, delivered straight to your couch. Many of Toronto’s leading arts organizations are reaching beyond traditional practice to come together and freely share digital content that brings the arts into your home.
- Stay, Play & Learn at Home: Tour a museum exhibit, watch a live concert, play interactive games, do DIY science experiments, try a new recipe, and much more.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
The City of Toronto has created a COVID-19 Essential Service Mapping Tool.
This tool has up-to-date service listings across Toronto, including food banks, meal delivery programs, community health services and more. Additional layers and details are being updated daily by 211 Toronto.
Advice from Toronto Public Health – Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We’ve all had to endure a great deal of change over these last couple of weeks – from practicing physical distancing, to working from home, to caring for children home from school, to keeping a distance from our elderly family members and friends – it’s an adjustment, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to not feel okay. But through all of this, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.
It’s also important for all of us to remember to care for our own mental health during this time. In previous updates I shared tips and resources from Toronto Public Health on staying emotionally healthy and resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please click here to view and share.
Community and Social Supports for Torontonians
Although many places across Toronto have been closed due to physical distancing measures, there are still social services supports available for residents in need. Through 211, operators can connect residents to income supports, distress lines, and mental health supports to name a few. Call 211, text 21166, or live chat with 211 agents Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., or visit 211toronto.ca to search for services.
A City-Community Response Table meets daily and includes representatives from more than 30 agencies across Toronto and 11 City divisions. This group is working together to identify new and emerging issues affecting vulnerable Torontonians during the COVID-19 emergency and to plan city-wide responses to address and resolve these issues.
Residents who need to access, or are seeking information on, social and community supports and services, should call 211 for non-emergency requests and information. 211 is a 24/7 help line and web service that connects residents to social and community services.
211 is working closely with community agencies to ensure they are continually updating their database with the most up-to-date programming and resource information.
Supporting Local Businesses
Our small and independent businesses are vital to the fabric of our city, and it’s critical that we support them as much as possible during these difficult and uncertain times. Here are some ways we can all do our part:
- Shop local: although businesses have had to close their doors to the public to allow for physical distancing, many are still offering takeout and delivery options. Many local fitness studios and gyms are offering online classes. Some businesses that provide in-person services are offering pre-booking and gift cards for future use. Contact your favourite local business to see how you can support them during this challenging time.
- Donate through distantly.ca: the City of Toronto is highlighting the launch of an online donation platform that allows community members to make direct donations to small businesses to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform allows customers to continue to support local main street businesses impacted by non-essential closures, such as coffee shops, restaurants and hair salons. Visit distantly.ca to learn more and donate.
- Participate in #TakeOutDay: a Canada-wide campaign, #TakeOutDay is now every Wednesday as a show of support for our favourite local restaurants. Restaurants are doing their part by staying open for takeout. Now it's your turn to take an active part in support of an industry that employs millions of people across our country. Let's make Wednesdays #TakeoutDay. Learn more at canadatakeout.com
Advice from Toronto Public Health on Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 When Spending Time Outdoors
Now that the warmer weather is arriving, many people are spending time outdoors for physical and mental health.
When spending time outdoors, refer to this information from Toronto Public Health;
- COVID-19 spreads through contact with respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking
- Droplets can spread up to 6 feet (2 metres) so close, prolonged contact poses the highest risk
- When cycling, running, or walking, step aside or pass others quickly and courteously
- The risk for catching COVID-19 while passing someone is low
If sick, you must stay home and self-isolate
- People are most contagious when they are sick, or 48 hours before they show symptoms
- Limit contact with other household members
- Refer to fact sheets on how to self-isolate
Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
The rapidly-evolving COVID-19 response requires all levels of government to work closely together.
I am in regular contact with my Provincial and Federal counterparts regarding the evolving COVID-19 response and how to best support Spadina-Fort York residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations.
Please visit their websites for more information on the Provincial and Federal responses:
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Now is not the time for panic or misinformation. Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Please visit the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for the up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Government COVID-19 websites
Call if you develop symptoms.
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Email: [email protected]
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services.