The Cressy Courier: April Council highlights, parks updates, and more!
Dear friend --
I hope you're all doing well.
As you've heard me say at countless community meetings and events, and as you've undoubtedly read in a previous e-newsletters, ensuring access to safe and affordable housing is a critical priority of mine. It must also be a critical priority of our city. It is the demonstration of the true health of a community, and of how we must truly take care of one another.
Most recently during the 2017 Budget process, I spoke with many of you about our city's housing crisis. We are experiencing a crisis in affordable housing - we've heard a lot in the media recently about efforts to curb the increasingly unaffordable rents across our city. This is critical, and we're working together to ensure we're doing everything we can to address the growing unaffordability of our neighbourhoods.
For many years now, we've also been in the midst of a growing social housing crisis. Thousands of our friends and neighbours call Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) home. A further 151,000 people are currently on the TCHC waiting list, merely to gain access to a unit suitable for them and their family. Units are increasingly unavailable – we don't have enough, and as you'll see below, funds for critical repairs is running out.
We are now at the most severe point in this crisis to date. In 2018, money for capital repairs, to address the over $2 billion backlog at TCHC, will run out. These are repairs to the homes of thousands of our neighbours, repairs that make their homes liveable. In 2018, the money runs out – and units are in danger of closing. This is not acceptable. We cannot let it happen.
All levels of government have a responsibility to invest in our social housing system to ensure units are safe, affordable, and liveable. All levels of government have a responsibility to ensure that all residents of Toronto, regardless of income, can access a safe place to live. Closing units, with more families being denied access to safe housing, is unacceptable.
What are the other levels of government doing? The Federal Government has promised funds, but details are yet to be confirmed. And the Provincial Government is absent – they have made no commitment to provide any funding for these desperately needed repairs within TCHC. They must come to the table and fulfill their obligation to all residents of Toronto.
Let me be clear. Even without the partnership of the Federal and Provincial governments, we cannot let a single TCHC unit close in 2018. We must do more as a City if our government counterparts don't step up. The situation is too serious, the safety of our friends and neighbours too important.
I will continue to advocate strongly and loudly to push the Federal and Provincial governments to help TCHC. I will also fight to ensure that not a single unit is closed in 2018. If you'd like to help, please consider writing to your MP and MPP to advocate for the desperately needed funds for our social housing system and to Mayor Tory to let him know that closing TCHC units is 2018 is unacceptable.
April Council Highlights
Growth strategy for child care
I am proud that City Council approved a 10-year strategy for expanding child care and early learning programs in Toronto and authorized staff to meet with federal and provincial representatives in pursuit of a tri-government agreement on expanding child care and early learning. The City's vision is a licensed child-care system serving 50 per cent of Toronto's children up to age four by 2026. Council confirmed its commitment to the City funding 20 per cent of child-care operating costs. Access to quality affordable child care is a critical issue in our city, and we must continue to work to expand access to our system.
City's tendering process
Council adopted recommendations and motions, including confidential instructions to staff, pertaining to an audit that identified ways to strengthen efforts to detect warning signs of potential bid rigging in the competitive tendering process for City contracts. One of the motions addresses the code of conduct for construction contractors and other suppliers, and specifies that any companies that act inappropriately will lose the privilege of bidding on City contracts.
Support for refugees and other newcomers
Council adopted several recommendations tied to the City's role related to refugees, refugee claimants and undocumented Torontonians. Among the actions adopted is a request for the Canadian and Ontario governments to provide more funding to the City, including for the Toronto Newcomer Office and various municipally delivered social services that face increased demand for their services.
Provincial cost-sharing on housing and transit
Council voted in support of a motion by Mayor Tory to ask the federal government to require the Province of Ontario to contribute to a 40-40-20 cost-share model pertaining to the second phase of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and the National Housing Strategy. The motion expressed concerns about the 2017 Ontario budget's lack of clarity on the province's anticipated matching of federal funding for transit and housing infrastructure.
Community consultation on emergency shelters
Council adopted a new community engagement process that sets out how the City will engage with the public concerning new or relocated municipal shelters to serve homeless people. As part of the same agenda item, Council authorized staff to introduce a new service model to apply at four new shelter programs operating on a pilot-project basis.
Home-visit municipal voting program
Council authorized the establishment of a home-visit program to serve home-bound electors in the City's municipal and school board elections. The home-visit service will be provided to electors who are unable to attend a voting place because of illness, injury or disability.
Protection of heritage buildings
Council adopted motions requesting reports on protecting heritage buildings, including by creating a "heritage survey" of all the buildings/structures across the city that have potential heritage value. Heritage buildings or areas identified as being under threat of demolition for development would be afforded some protection under the Ontario Heritage Act and through the City's process for demolition permits.
Approved - new park at 28 Bathurst!
I'm delighted that City Council approved my colleague, Councillor Mike Layton's plan, to turn vacant land at 28 Bathurst into a brand new 2-acre park. This is tremendous news, and a great win for our shared downtown neighbourhoods.
As our city grows, we must focus on building neighbourhoods rather than just adding density. As we all know too well, parkland development downtown has not kept pace with the level of growth in the population of our communities. I look forward to working collaboratively with our communities on these initiatives, like 28 Bathurst, new parkland at The Well and Rail Deck Park, in the coming weeks and months, and to continue building our neighbourhoods together.
One Step Closer - Safety at Richmond and Simcoe Streets
We need a traffic signal at the intersection of Richmond and Simcoe to provide a dedicated, protected crossing for pedestrians and cyclists using Richmond Street, particularly people who experience mobility challenges and cannot cross as quickly as some others. I have heard from many residents in the area and many cyclists that it is dangerous and unsafe to try to dodge through the gaps in fast traffic on Richmond Street. Ensuring safety for pedestrians and cyclists must be a top priority here and across our neighbourhoods.
Initially, City Transportation staff recommended against adding the traffic signal, raising concerns about the potential for vehicular congestion on Richmond Street. But we cannot let fears of modest, manageable delays for vehicles stand in the way of making our streets safe and welcoming for everyone.
On April 4, Toronto and East York Community Council endorsed my request to install a new traffic signal at this intersection, despite the recommendation from City staff. We were ready to fight for this improvement at City Council, where the final decision would be made.
Thanks to the dozens of letters that City Council received from local residents, businesses, and organizations in support of the traffic signal, City Council deferred any decision until next month, allowing time for Transportation Services to reconsider their recommendation through the "Vision Zero" lens – the goal that nobody should ever be seriously injured or killed on our streets. See my comments in the recent Metro news article.
For the May meeting of Community Council, City staff issued a new report recommending installing the traffic signal and Community Council once again supported the improvement. The issue will go back to City Council at the next meeting on May 24-26 for a final decision, but this time with unified support from the neighbourhood, Community Council, and City staff.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to City Council, adding your voice to the chorus calling for safe streets! Your advocacy has made a difference and helped to get us this far. If you have not yet had a chance, there is still time to join the effort. Please click here and select the button "Submit Comments" to help ensure that the new traffic signal is approved by City Council later this month.
AirBnB and rental shortages
While our City struggles to deal with the growing shortage of rental housing and affordability, the discussion of regulating short-term rentals, like AirBnB, will soon be before City Council. Frankly, it couldn't come soon enough.
In all my discussions, very few people oppose the principle of home sharing. People have been renting out rooms in their primary residence for years. However, AirBnB has changed the game completely. We are now witnessing entire rental units and houses being taken off the rental market to make way for more profitable short term stays. This is problematic on many fronts. As a business, these investor driven short-term rentals are not taxed fairly. As a rental location, few (if any) protections are in place to ensure protection for users or neighbours. And, most importantly, this model is strangling an already strained rental housing market in our City.
Kensington Market is a perfect example. Last month there were 12 rental units on the market in Kensington, and more than 100 AirBnB units. An entire neighbourhood is being pushed out to make way for short-term rentals. This is a sector in desperate need of regulation.
Next month City Council will discuss and vote on a new regulatory framework for short-term rentals. It will be an important debate and one whose time has come.
For more than two years now, we have been working hard together to create a new Neighbourhood Plan for Bathurst Quay. There have been more than fifty meetings with dozens of groups, staff have reachiedout directly to every single co-op, condo, and apartment building in the neighbourhood. Public meetings open to the entire community were held in December 2014, April 2015, December 2015, and November 2016. Presentation materials from November 2016 are available here:
Bathurst Quay is a neighbourhood with great attributes. It has a wonderful diversity of people and housing options, the ambitious and inclusive Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre, first class parks like Little Norway Park and Coronation Park, a unique monument to Toronto's history at the Canada Malting Silos, and an enviable waterfront setting. We can build on these positive qualities to improve the neighbourhood and bring Waterfront Revitalizations west to Bathurst Quay.
The Neighbourhood Plan lays out an action plan for a successful Bathurst Quay, and identifies four important Big Moves to undertake in the short term, and see through for the next generation:
1. Creating a Remarkable Public Realm
We can stitch together the existing parks and open spaces with better streetscaping and by repairing all the crumbling portions of dock wall. There are also a few significant opportunities to create new public parks, such as the surface parking lot at the foot of Stadium Road. The City will construct improvements that are "Quick Wins" later this year.
2. Enhancing Community Services and Facilities
We need to be sure that the existing community facilities have the resources they need to serve the neighbourhood today, and in the future. A Facility Needs Assessment of the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre is almost complete. And we are starting planning now for a new public aquatic centre in Bathurst Quay that will serve the waterfront communities.
3. Re-energizing the Silos Site
The Canada Malting Silos have sat unused, behind a locked fence, for too long. We will open up public access to the land around the Silos this year, and we will launch a process to find a partner organization who can bring the community vision for the Silos to life, which is focussed on arts, culture, open space, and community uses.
4. A New Focus on Movement
Today, airport traffic is a source of congestion, safety concerns, and parking problems in Bathurst Quay. Work is ongoing to resolve safety trouble spots, to appropriately manage the volume of vehicles, and to shift more and more airport traffic away from taxis and private vehicles, and toward walking, cycling, and public transit. The City is studying how to change Lake Shore-Bathurst-Fleet with a focus on pedestrian safety. In the long-term, the intention is to relocate the reduced volume of airport pick-up and drop-off traffic to an underground loop, reducing safety conflicts and freeing up space on the surface for the public.
We are already hard at work on implementation of the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan. You will begin to see improvements this year and we are setting in motion the long-term projects that are vital to the future of Bathurst Quay, including securing full funding from the City for the new aquatic centre. In July, City Council will formally endorse the principles in the Neighbourhood Plan, so these are on the books to guide all future City decisions affecting Bathurst Quay.
You will be hearing from my office and the City, beginning very shortly, for your comments and participation on many aspects of implementing the Neighbourhood Plan. There are still many details to work on together such as the design of parkland improvements. Please watch for updates in future issues of the Cressy Courier or stay involved with the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Association (BQNA). I will be attending the BQNA AGM this Wednesday, May 10 (7 pm at the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre) to provide a detailed update to the community.
King Street Pilot Study - second public meeting
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 well. 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.
Please join me at the second public consultation on the King Street Pilot Study.
The King Street Pilot Study is about exploring bold, transformative ideas for how to redesign King Street in order to move people on transit more efficiently, improve placemaking and the public realm, and support business and economic prosperity.
At this public meeting, the City will be seeking feedback on a preferred pilot design that has been developed. Consultation and engagement is a critical part of the King Street Pilot Study, and a variety of community and neighbourhood groups, businesses and BIAs, and other key stakeholders have been involved in the development of the preferred design.
Thursday, May 18th, 2017
6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
InterContinental Toronto Centre, Ballroom
225 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2X3
(Front St W. & Simcoe St.)
Over the past few years, 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.
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.
To find out more and stay updated, visit the project website.
Bellevue/Denison Contraflow Bike Lanes
I'm delighted that on May 9, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee approved contraflow bike lanes on Bellevue Avenue and Denison Avenue from College to Queen. This is great news for Kensington Market residents and everyone who cycles around our downtown communities, as we work to expand our cycling infrastructure and work toward the goal of creating safe streets for all users.
Thank you to everyone to came out to our Open House late last year and provided your input on the project. City staff have taken your feedback and incorporated community comments into their final report. Transportation staff will also continue to monitor this location after the contraflow lane rollout to make any necessary tweaks to parking or pavement markings to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
You can find a link to the proposal and the staff report here.
Bellevue Square Park - construction update
Construction of the new Bellevue Square Park is now in full swing. The contractors are working hard and are making good progress. Much of the work in the park up to this point has involved identifying (and avoiding) the existing underground infrastructure such as gas, water and sewer lines.
The technical surveys conducted in preparation for work to start provide a general idea of where the underground fixtures are, but it is only once the digging started that the contractors become aware of the specifics. That said, the foundations for the new washroom structure are all but completed, and the anchor points for the decking at the north east corner of the park are also almost all in place. Once these underground elements are completed we should see more action and activity above grade on the site.
Despite the ongoing construction, we were able to have a very successful Compost Day on April 29. Not only was this a fantastic opportunity to get those garden beds spruced up and ready for the season, but it was an excellent opportunity to get out in the neighbourhood and chat with folks about what to expect once construction is complete.
Some informational boards have been posted up on the site that outline the plan for the new and improved park; you can also click here to see some updated design images from our project manager that provides a more detailed overview of the plans, the play structures and a new rendering of the bathroom structure.
Grange Park - update
Construction at Grange Park is finally almost complete and we are on track to have the park fully open by the end of June!
Over the next couple months, crews will complete the play area and water features, grade and sod the great lawn, complete the washrooms and maintenance building, plant trees and perennials, install remaining park furniture, and adjust the lighting. The Dog Off-Leash Area will be completed and fenced when the other park areas re-open to the public.
Once the work is completed, I hope you will join me and the rest of the Grange Park Advisory Committee for our Community Celebration on Saturday, July 8th from 12-4pm. Stay tuned for more details soon!
Upcoming Community Compost Days
We still have some Compost Days left for this year! Unfortunately, we had to reschedule our Compost Days from last weekend due to the weather, but we will be at Vermont Square and Ogden Junior Public School later this month.
It's been great to see so many people out there during our Compost Days so far and I look forward to seeing the rest of our ward's gardeners soon!
This Saturday, May 13
Little Norway Park
Sunday, May 28
Ogden Junior Public School
Another successful year of Clean Up Day events!
On April 22, I was happy to join neighbours across Ward 20 to clean up our parks and public spaces. Thank you to all the community groups who organized these clean ups from Seaton Village down to the waterfront and everywhere in between. We had a great turnout across the ward and we left our communities looking great for the start of spring.
I'm already looking forward to next year's events!
TTC work and Streetcar replacement - Queen Street
From May 7 to September 2, buses will replace streetcars on the entire length of the 501/301 Queen route; between Long Branch Loop to Neville Park Loop.
A number of planned construction projects along the Queen streetcar route make it difficult to provide continuous uninterrupted streetcar service during the work.
The projects on the 501/301 Queen route from May 7 to September 2 include:
- City/TTC track work on the Lake Shore and track and bridge work on The Queensway, and major work at TTC’s Humber Loop – January 2017 to end of year
- City streetscaping/sidewalk improvement work between Bathurst and Spadina – Spring 2017
- Eaton Centre/Hudson’s Bay pedestrian bridge re-construction – May to September 2017
- City watermain work at Queen/Coxwell – prior to Labour Day 2017 (this is followed by TTC track reconstruction in the fall)
- Various short-term TTC track/concrete repairs on Queen Street
- i.e. Queen/James, Queen/Simcoe, Queen/Bay, etc.
A full bus replacement will maintain service along the route, providing the most efficient travel during construction, and will help avoid major diversions that streetcars would otherwise be required to use. For example, when the Eaton Centre conducts their pedestrian bridge work, streetcar overhead wiring along that section will have to be removed (Queen/Yonge area). If operated with streetcars, the diversion would re-route customers via: Queen – Church – King – Spadina – Queen, with a bus service operating between Church and Spadina. TTC’s bus replacement plan therefore avoids both a large streetcar diversion and a transfer.
On September 3, streetcars will return on the Queen route east of Roncesvalles Avenue. Buses will continue operating west of Roncesvalles Avenue due to ongoing construction along The Queensway/Humber Loop/Lake Shore.
For more information, see the construction notice here.
Metrolinx Construction - Union Station Rail Corridor
The Union Station Rail Corridor, which runs through our communities just south of Front Street, is owned and operated by Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario's transit agency. Work often occurs overnight and nearby residents may be affected by the associated noise and light.
To sign up for regular email updates about construction from Metrolinx, please contact Michael Paolucci at 416-202-4425 or [email protected].
Stay in touch with Trustee Malik
Sign-up to Trustee Ausma Malik's e-newsletter for regular updates from her: http://eepurl.com/9xckn.
150-158 Pearl Street & 15 Duncan Street – Rezoning application meeting
Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Metro Hall, Room 310
For more information, see the meeting notice here.
485-539 King Street W - Rezoning application meeting
Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Location: Metro Hall, Room 310
For more information, see the meeting notice here.
May 10, 2017
Screening of The Stairs documentary (1:00-3:30pm)
St. Stephen's Community House (91 Bellevue Ave), Gym
St. Stephen’s Community House in partnership with Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre is hosting a free screening of The Stairs documentary on Wednesday May 10, 2017 at 1pm – 3:30pm (see attached flyer). Screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Peer Workers (People with Lived Experience) from QW-CTCHC, St Stephen’s Community House, Street Health and Regent Park CHC.
The Stairs tells the story of Marty, Greg and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street-involvement. Using their experiences to ease the paths of others, each performs social work in their old neighbourhood, while struggling to maintain their newly-found stability. Told over five years, The Stairs is a non-judgemental character study of life on society’s margins. Defying stereotypes through intimate portraits, its remarkable subjects are by turns surprising, funny, shocking and moving.
This is the link to the Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/1393305984064843/.
June 10, 2017
Alice and Dan Heap Plaque Presentation (3:00-4:00pm)
29 Wales Avenue
Join me, Heritage Toronto and the Heap family for the presentation of plaque honouring the legacy of life-long community organizers, trade unionists, socialists, and peace-activists Alice and Dan Heap. For more information and to register your attendance, please click here.
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.