The Cressy Courier: 401 Richmond updates, Council highlights, and more!
Dear friend --
Today at City Hall, City Council is debating the 2017 Operating and Capital Budget. I, along with many Council colleagues, will be sending a clear message to the Mayor and City Council that balancing the budget by cutting services for our city's most vulnerable, seniors in our communities, and families, while increasing fees for recreation programs, transit and more is not acceptable.
Throughout the budget debate, we've heard loud and clear that our communities want to work together to build a fairer city. We've heard loud and clear that we must collectively shoulder the cost of supporting each other and building our city, and that costs for critical services like childcare, housing and transit, should not continue to increase while shared costs go down.
We have heard about cuts to City services - our struggling shelter and transit systems, and increases to child care and recreation fees. The budget does not adequately address our city's affordable housing crisis, with nearly 100,000 families on the affordable housing waiting list, and a $2 billion backlog to fix crumbling TCHC units. This budget does not invest more in the repairs that are so drastically needed across the city, but continues to allocate billions to projects like the Gardiner Expressway rehabilitation and Scarborough subway.
The proposed 2017 budget does not allow us to maintain the city and services we have, let alone provide the resources we need to invest to build a fair and equitable city. Yes, some important pieces have been added back into this year's Budget. However, serious cuts and fee increases that make it harder for our city to address rising levels of poverty, provide affordable services for families, and ensure public health for all residents are still on the table. These include a 12% increase to many recreation fees, cuts to resources for our city's shelter system, cuts to our city's Long-Term Care homes, and the absence of funding to reach the provincially mandated standards for vaccination services.
Rather than reasonably increasing property taxes so that we all collectively pay less and share in building our city, fees are going up for families, children, and those who rely on our services. Unfortunately, the Mayor has continued to advocate this position. I will continue to work hard to push for a fair increase to property taxes today, so that we can all collectively build our city. I will also continue to advocate for progressive new revenue sources, to ensure that everyone in our communities has access to the support and services they need.
Our work to build an equitable and fairer city for all continues – read below for more updates on these and other important local issues.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact my office at any time.
January City Council Highlights
Waste collection east of Yonge Street
Council considered the matter of curbside waste collection service east of Yonge Street and voted to refer the matter to staff for further study and a later report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. I was not in favour of the Mayor's plan to privatize garbage collection in the Scarborough District, and am pleased that the plan will not be moving forward. As we debated the issue, it was made clear to Council that public waste collection in Scarborough was cheaper and had a higher rate of waste diversion and recycling than private collection in Etobicoke. We also know that pitting private sector companies against public sector entities results in lower wages, fewer benefits, and less secure jobs. As a city, we should set an example and create good jobs, rather than fuel a race to the bottom.
Support for arts and heritage spaces
I was pleased that Council adopted my motion to ask the Ontario government to work with municipalities to explore ways to support non-profit arts organizations and incubators, and to help conserve heritage properties through property assessment measures. Background information with the motion says Toronto heritage assets such as the building at 401 Richmond in the King-Spadina area – and the creative organizations inside it – are under threat from development pressures. We will continue to work closely with 401 Richmond and its tenants to ensure that the space, and the dynamic uses that it houses, continue.
Resources for review of development applications
Council asked staff to prepare a report on the City's development approval process, including improvements for identifying buildings of heritage significance that may be under threat of demolition. The City is increasing staff resources to handle increased development applications. Applications in City Planning have increased by 27 per cent over the past three years, with a total of 4,790 applications submitted in 2016.
Toronto as a Sanctuary City
I was proud to work closely with Mayor Tory and Councillor Mihevc on a motion to re-affirm Toronto as a Sanctuary City where all residents have full rights to access municipal services without fear regardless of their documentation status. The motion that was adopted also urges the federal government to uphold a Canadian immigration and refugee policy that is based on the values of inclusion, acceptance and non-discrimination. Read on below for more information on this critical statement of unity by our city.
Sponsorship of Syrian refugees
City Council supported my motion pushing the federal government to speed up processing of privately-sponsored Syrian refugee families, as well as families from other countries, are processed and travel arrangements made so sponsorship groups ready to host families can welcome them to Canada within three months. In light of the disturbing events that have been unfolding south of the border, my motion also asks the government to reconsider its current cap on the maximum number of privately-sponsored refugees and to review Canada's refugee resettlement plan for 2017.
Charter for inclusive communities
I was also happy to work with Councillor Mihevc on a motion to endorse the National Council of Canadian Muslims' Charter for Inclusive Communities, which commits signatories to promote inclusive, just and respectful communities. The motion that was before Council said the charter "not only acknowledges that Islamophobia presents real dangers to certain members of our community, it asserts that, as a community, we have a duty to work towards eliminating the hate."
College Street Bar
Council adopted a motion calling for actions to address concerns involving the operation of College Street Bar, 574 College St.
Supporting 401 Richmond - update
I am continuing to work closely with 401 Richmond and City staff to address the recent MPAC property re-assessment that threatens the creative and unique nature of 401 and its tenants.
To fix this problem, we need the provincial government to work with municipalities to examine new ways of assessing heritage properties and non-profit arts and culture organizations. At its last meeting, City Council endorsed my motion asking the province to do just that. We need a solution that can address this growing problem for our critical non-profit arts and cultural organizations, but also the spaces in which they and countless other dynamic uses are now housed. At the recent tenant meeting, I heard loud and clear that the province needs to act – I am committed to continuing to advocate for them to do so.
However, many tenants at 401 cannot wait for the province to act. We are moving quickly in our work in exploring every potential option at the city level that could be a solution, in collaboration with Urbanspace at 401 Richmond. I will continue to provide updates on this work as we move forward.
To continue to show your support in advocating for a permanent and effective change to the Province's assessment rules so that 401 Richmond, and other buildings and incubator spaces like it, can heave reasonable, predictable tax assessments, contact your local MPP, the Minister of Finance, and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Bloor Block Plan - approved by City Council
Working with City Planning, Heritage Preservation Services and Urban Design staff, and representatives from the Annex Residents' Association, Harbord Village Residents' Association, Huron-Sussex Residents' Organization and the 95 Prince Arthur Committee for Responsible Neighbourhood Development, we created the Bloor Block Study to clarify existing policy to protect Heritage views, establish clear maximum heights at the northeast and northwest corners of Spadina and Bloor, increase green space, and improve the public realm. You can read the report here.
I am proud to announce that after months of preparation and consultation with local stakeholders and the community, the Study was adopted unanimously by the Toronto and East York Community Council and approved at City Council during our last meeting. Thank you to all our hard working residents groups, city staff, and all those who got involved in this important process.
Protecting the future of the Silver Dollar Room
Recently in the media, there have been many reports that the Silver Dollar Room will be closing its doors for good on May 1. However, thankfully, this is not the case.
The Silver Dollar Room and Waverley Hotel are slated for redevelopment, as per a 2015 settlement at the Ontario Municipal Board. The City opposed the development, but unfortunately ended up at the OMB after an appeal by property owners, the Wynn Group. However, the City fought hard to ensure that the Silver Dollar Room, with its heritage protections on the performance space, stage and iconic sign, among other features, would be conserved.
It is also important to note that my office, in coordination with City staff, are fighting hard to support long-term tenants of the Waverley, and to ensure that their rights are protected as we work to find new and supportive housing.
While the venue will close during construction, it will reopen afterwards.
We are losing too many live music venues in Toronto (the Hideout and Hugh's Room are just the latest examples). However, the Silver Dollar is an example of the city taking action to save one. The Silver Dollar Room is an historic space for music lovers all over. Thankfully, it will live (and play) on.
Toronto for All - United as a Sanctuary City
At our last City Council meeting, we stood together with all Canadians in mourning the six people whose lives were lost in the terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique in Quebec City. Over the past numbers of weeks, we have also watched as the United States government has moved forward with destructive executive orders on immigration targeting people from Muslim-majority countries. This is a moment when we are called upon to stand up for justice and reach out to those targeted by hateful policies. In the face of this, we must stand united with love and openness in our hearts.
Declaring millions of people unwelcome based on their religion and place of origin is wrong. What the Trump administration has done cannot go unchallenged.
No one should be made to feel afraid because of who they are, where they come from, and what they believe. People should never be persecuted. Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism are unacceptable. A person's worth should never be determined by their race, religion, ethnicity, origin or citizenship status.
As I mentioned above, I was proud to move a joint motion, alongside Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Mihevc, reaffirming Toronto as a Sanctuary City, in solidarity with cities around the world. I was also pleased to see City Council adopt my motion asking the Federal Government to speed up the processing of privately-sponsored refugees. The motion also asks the Government to re-consider the recently imposed cap on privately-sponsored refugees and the overall Canadian refugee resettlement strategy for 2017, including the number of refugees, from all source countries, in light of recent events.
Now is the time for Toronto to reach out to those impacted by these discriminatory policies and say "you are welcome here." Now is the time to commit to love in the face of hate, and hope in the face of fear. We stand together, united across our differences so that we remain strong and hold on to the fundamental rights and values that define us.
King Street Pilot Project – time to move more people, faster
On Monday, hundreds of people came out to the first public consultation on the King Street Pilot Project – a strong message that it's time for a big move on King.
King Street is the busiest surface transit route in the entire City, carrying more than 65,000 riders on a typical weekday. It is a critical downtown spine, connecting neighbourhoods, the largest employment centre in the entire country, and diverse urban forms and uses.
But we recognize that King Street isn't working. Streetcars are often stuck in mixed traffic, making it challenging to keep transit service running smoothly. This often results in bunching and gapping of vehicles, uneven utilization of capacity, streetcar congestion and overcrowded vehicles. During rush hour, people are often unable to board the first streetcar that arrives.
The City and TTC have recently been making operational changes to improve streetcar service, including: allowing all-door loading (to become more effective with the new low-floor streetcars); adding supplemental buses; extending turning and on-street parking restrictions; optimizing transit stop locations and route running times; adding route supervisors; and improving night service.
But a more significant change is needed to improve transit service on this critical artery in our neighbourhoods. Like we're doing in so many other areas – community facilities, new parkland, and more – we must both catch up with growth and plan for the future.
It's time for a big move on King St. to make it work better now, and be a bold transit corridor as we continue to grow.
Why a Pilot?
Pilot projects are an efficient and cost-effective way for us to quickly test out new ideas in order to learn important lessons about what works and what doesn't. The City can monitor and collect data to measure how overall objectives are being met and make adjustments before a larger investment in permanent infrastructure is made. Pilot projects also offer an opportunity to have discussions with stakeholders and the public about new ideas. The City has used pilot projects on a number of other projects, most notably the Bloor Cycling Pilot and the Richmond-Adelaide Cycle Tracks.
The King St. pilot project(s) will test a range of options to determine what might further improve transit reliability, capacity, and efficiency.
We are in the first stages of a critical process to determine the best option for making King Street work. Over the last number of months, the City has been working hard with consultant partners to develop preliminary options for what is possible for King, in preparation for conversations with the public on what could work best. These options can now be reviewed on the project website.
Consultation and engagement on these options will continue in the coming months. My office, and city staff, will be working closely with community and neighbourhood groups, businesses and BIAs, and other key stakeholders throughout the Study. Stay tuned for further updates on getting involved in the broad consultations and neighbourhood conversations. To get in touch with project team and share your feedback, contact [email protected].
Building reliable transit service is critical as we continue our work to build liveable communities. The King Street pilot project is an important step as we move forward, and I am excited to work together to build our vision for King.
Kensington Market HCD Study - update
The Kensington Market Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study is nearing completion! At our final public meeting on February 9th, the consultants announced that they will be recommending to the Toronto Preservation Board that the City move forward to the HCD Plan phase.
At the meeting, we also heard that the heritage value of Kensington is derived from its rich and diverse history, creative and welcoming culture, and unique architectural features, among other significant attributes. The Study phase has provided a strong rationale for proceeding to the Plan phase -- thanks to Heritage staff, the consultants, and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for their hard work during this past year.
I look forward to the Plan approval by the Toronto Preservation Board and continuing to work with the community as we move ahead towards the creation of a "made-in-Kensington" HCD Plan.
New Lower Simcoe Ramp Project
Over the upcoming construction season, the City of Toronto will be demolishing the old York-Bay-Yonge off ramp from the Gardiner Expressway to make way for an urbanized Harbour Street with sidewalks and a multi-use path, a new public park at York Street, and a new shorter off ramp ending at Lower Simcoe Street. The old ramp is nearing the end of its life and would need to be rebuilt anyway, so this is an ideal time to improve the street network and expand the public realm. When work is finished, the streets in this area will be safer and more convenient for everyone.
This is the second and final phase of the Lower Simcoe Ramp project. Last summer, the foundations for the new ramp were constructed underneath the old ramp, reducing the duration or work required this year.
The York-Bay-Yonge off ramp will be closed for demolition on April 17. Work will take place during the day as much as possible, between 7 am and 7 pm, to minimize negative effects on neighbours. Some weekend and overnight work will be required at times, including to safely demolish the old ramp where it bridges over Lower Simcoe Street and York Street, but advance notice will be provided to neighbours before these dates. For thousands of residents, this work will be taking place in their back yard, so I will be actively working to ensure that unnecessary noisy activities do not take place outside the planned daytime hours of work. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any concerns or complaints during construction.
A Construction Liaison Committee is being established for area residents and other stakeholders, with representation from each building directly affected by construction. If you live in a condo building in the area, your Board of Directors or property management has received an invitation to send a representative to these meetings on behalf of your building.
Residents in neighbourhoods east and west of this area will see changes to the traffic flows from the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard when the old ramp is closed in April as drivers seek new routes into downtown from the west. Signage will be posted in advance so drivers can make alternative arrangements. A gate will be opened at the Spadina Avenue off ramp to permit drivers to access Lake Shore Boulevard eastbound at this point, which is not normally possible. Transportation Services staff will be monitoring traffic impacts closely and adjustments will be made to traffic signal timings as needed.
The City is also hosting a drop-in event for community members to learn more about the upcoming construction and speak individually to project staff. The event will be on February 28 at the Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre (11 Bay Street), Marine Room. Drop in anytime between 3-5pm or 6:30-8:30pm.
Huron Street Playground
Last week, we had a great celebration for the opening of Huron Street Playground. As part of the design process, students from Huron Street Public School were consulted and took part in the unveiling ceremony. It was a tremendous pleasure to join the kids who were instrumental in getting this playground improvement project right.
I look forward to beginning work on Phase II soon!
Queen Street improvements
This summer there will be some great new improvements coming to Queen Street West. For years, my office has been working with the Queen West BIA to refine plans for a full scale streetscape revitalization. From Bathurst to Spadina, we will see new trees and tree guards, street furniture and re-paved sidewalks with heritage markers denoting some of the historically significant structures in the area. Perhaps the most exciting feature of these streetscape plans is the creation of two new parkettes at the northeast and northwest corners of Ryerson Ave and Denison Ave. Not only are these going to be beautiful spaces to rest and enjoy a snack, but they will be outfitted to serve as the city's first free public WiFi Hotspots.
I have also been working closely with the Garment District Neighbourhood Association, the Queen West BIA, the Laneway Project and a group of engaged neighbours to help realize the potential of our laneway and alley networks. The first step in this is to ensure that these important places have names. Together, we are proud to announce the launch of a new web portal where community members can submit names that reflect the creative, resilient, and diverse culture of the Queen West neighbourhood.
While we are starting with naming two laneways and the two new parkettes, there are many more places that need to be named, and we encourage everyone to submit names early and often! We are enlisting a panel of local experts to help sift through this first round of proposed names, but this will only be the beginning -- stay tuned for more updates regarding future events and workshops. For more information, check out the website here.
CityPlace Ice Rink
With support from the CityPlace and Fort York BIA, the new outdoor rink down at Canoe Landing Park is up and running! This past weekend, they held a fantastic launch event for the rink, which will remain open for the next few weeks.
Get out there and enjoy the rink while it lasts! Click here for more information, including hours of operation.
Black History Month Commemorative Events
February is Black History Month and there are commemorative events happening across the city. Each year, the City of Toronto is proud to support events and exhibits scheduled for Black History Month, inviting members of the public to explore and celebrate the heritage, traditions and culture of Black Canadians. Please visit this website to see a full list of events.
Black History Month is an opportunity for the City of Toronto to recognize the past and present contributions that Black Canadians make to the life of Toronto in such areas as education, medicine, art, culture, public service, economic development, politics and human rights.
This month, and every month, let's continue to honour the important contributions Black Canadians have made to our country, and keep working towards a truly fair and equal world for all.
Lunar New Year Celebrations - 恭喜發財 !
I had a great time celebrating Lunar New Year around the ward with residents and community groups, including Scadding Court Community Centre and the Chinatown BIA. I always take great joy in celebrating the Lunar New Year around our strong and diverse community -- this year was no different!
I wish everyone a happy and healthy Lunar New Year!
Parent Talk Initiative
The TDSB is piloting an initiative called Parent Talk at Ryerson Community School and Ogden Public School. This is a program to help parents and guardians learn more about the resources available at the TDSB and in the wider community, and how these resources can benefit student learning. This program is free and runs weekly for 6 weeks.
For more information, see the invitation here, or contact our local TDSB Trustee Ausma Malik.
"Ice Breakers" on Toronto's Waterfront
Five new interactive public art installations are breaking through Queens Quay West this winter! From Harbourfront Centre to the Toronto Music Garden, discover, explore, and engage with this new temporary art exhibit. Visit www.waterfrontbia.com/event/ice-breakers for full details.
Stay in touch with Trustee Malik
Sign-up to Trustee Ausma Malik's e-newsletter for regular updates from her: http://eepurl.com/9xckn.
25 Leonard Avenue - Rezoning application
Date: February 22, 2017
Location: St. Stephen's Community House (91 Bellevue Ave)
St. Clare's Multifaith Society has submitted an application to increase the number of affordable housing units on their current site at 25 Leonard Ave. City Planning has been working with the applicant, and invite you to view the proposal and offer your feedback at this public meeting. For more information, see the meting notice here.
457 Richmond St W – Rezoning application
Date: February 28, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Metro Hall, Room 308/309 (55 John St)
This is a proposal for a 19-storey building. Please see the meeting notice for more information.
357 King St W – Rezoning application
Date: February 28, 2017
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Metro Hall, Room 308/309 (55 John St)
This is a proposal for a 42-storey building. Please see the meeting notice for more information.
University of Toronto Secondary Plan
Date: March 1, 2017
Location: Medical Sciences Building, 1st Floor, C. David Naylor Student Commons (1 King's College Circle)
You are invited a community consultation, hosted by City Planning staff to discuss the University of Toronto's Secondary Plan for the future of the St. George Campus.
This presentation is an opportunity to hear more about how the City is reviewing the proposed Secondary Plan framework, learn more about the plan from the University and their consultants, ask questions, and offer feedback.
February 27, 2017
TDSB February Ward Council on School Fundraising: Strategies and Best Practices (6:30-8:30pm)
Heydon Park Secondary School (70 D'Arcy Street)
Join Trustee Ausma Malik and the TDSB Ward 10 Council for presentations on TDSB fundraising guidelines, successful strategies, how school funding works, and fundraising best practices for our community. For more information, see the Facebook event here and the event flyer here.
February 28, 2017
Lower Simcoe Ramp - drop-in event (3-5pm or 6:30-8:30pm)
Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre (11 Bay Street), Marine Room
The City invites you to attend this drop-in event to learn more about the upcoming construction on the Lower Simcoe Ramp and speak individually with project staff.
March 6, 2017
Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market - Community Consultation (6:30pm)
St. Stephen's Community House (91 Bellevue Avenue)
Join me and the organizers of Pedestrian Sundays for our annual community consultation to review last year's events and hear about this year's plans.
A reminder that I hold constituency hours every Friday at the Scadding Court Community Centre (707 Dundas St. West).
Please call 416-392-4044 or email [email protected] for an appointment.