Road Tolls Are Not the Issue

Posted on November 25, 2016

Everyone’s talking road tolls. Mayor Tory raised the idea in a speech on Thursday and opinion is already sharply divided. The problem is that his speech wasn’t about road tolls, nor were the bundle of City reports that came out around the time he gave the speech.

The speech and the reports were both efforts to address the City’s over-all financial problems. Reading through the speech and the reports it becomes very clear that the issue of road tolls is a sideshow. There are two really big questions. What’s the plan for managing the City’s services and finances? Will the plan work?

The Mayor’s plan is quite different from the plan staff recommend. His plan has no chance of working. The staff plan just might.

The Mayor and City staff agree on the nature of the four challenges we face.

First, we don’t have the right tax mix to pay for the day-to-day services we operate. This year we will come up a few hundred million dollars short. Even if we cobble something together this year, next year we will have an additional few hundred million to figure out.

The second problem we face is we have no way at all to fund the one-time big ticket items: rebuilding the Gardiner, buying new buses, fixing rundown public housing buildings, etc. City staff and the Mayor put the cost of these big ticket items that have no funding at $33 billion.

Third, we don’t have enough transit service and road space to move people and goods around the City. We need more and better transit, and we need it now.

Fourth, we have far too much poverty in Toronto, more people per-capita live in poverty in our City than in any other in the country. Additionally, as housing costs sky-rocket, a generation of Torontonians are being priced out of the City.

Here’s the Mayor’s plan with some comments.

  1. Ask the Province to permit us to toll the DVP and the Gardiner. Although he didn’t declare how much the toll would be, the most likely scenario is $2.00 per trip. This would net us about $166 million per year. Over 30 years that would be worth $5 billion. That sounds big, but one of the many staff reports that came out Thursday says that maintaining the Gardiner and DVP over that period will cost $3.65 Billion. That number is bigger than we expected. In yet another staff report they informed us that we will need $1 billion more than we thought to pay for the Mayor’s plan to keep the Gardiner and slightly realign it.

  So the net value of the tolls over 30 years will be $1.3 billion. It’s time to take a second look at whether we can afford the Mayor’s plan to keep the eastern section of the Gardiner.

  1. Already introduced is an infrastructure fund using a property tax increase that starts a 0.5% and will apparently rise to 2.5%. This will allow us to pay for $900 million worth of capital projects. On a worrisome side-note the Mayor wants this and the toll money administered by an “independent body”.

  Americans call this taxation without representation. I’ll just say that it’s a basic rule of democracy that we elect the people who manage public money.

  1. The federal government has committed to paying $850 million toward repairs and equipment replacement for the TTC. However, we must match it dollar for dollar. The capital funding the Mayor has committed to adds up to $2.2 billion over the next two or three decades. Take away this commitment and we have $1.35 billion left.
  1. Ask the Province to allow us to institute a tax on hotels that will yield $20 million/year. This would support day to day operating costs.
  1. Eliminate an existing tax rebate for vacant commercial properties. This would yield $22 million for our operating budget.
  1. Next is a proposal to contract out the remaining publicly collected garbage services. (Everything east of Yonge St.) It is important to note that this has nothing to do with the City’s main budget. Garbage service is (mostly) paid for separately by bin fees. Further, in still another staff report they warn us against contracting out services if it creates precarious work. Right now public employees who collect garbage have reasonably good pay and job security. Employees of private collectors have relatively low wages and benefits and no meaningful job security. This is the very definition of precarious work.
  1. Although not mentioned in his speech, I have reason to believe that the Mayor will support some changes to how we collect the Land Transfer Tax. If we harmonize our LTT to match the amounts collected by the Province we could increase our annual take by about $100 million/year. While this money may be best allocated to our capital budget, I’m assuming it will go to our operating budget where the crisis is more urgent.
  1. A plan to sell Toronto Hydro and/or the Toronto Parking Authority has been shelved. The Mayor and staff agree that this would be bad financial policy. This is by far the best news in the speech. BUT! the new plan is to have the City lend Toronto Hydro $200 million at a high interest rates. Some of this would come back immediately as dividends used to cut our operating budget deficit. Hydro would have to repay the loan at those high interest rates.

  This would mean that for years some of your Hydro bill will be used to keep property taxes down. Hydro bills are very regressive. Property tax is progressive. This means shifting costs down more heavily toward low income people. Inability to pay energy utility bills (Hydro, heat, gas) is the second most common cause of eviction after inability to pay rent.

  1. Thursday’s speech went to great lengths to rule out property tax increases and reinstating the Vehicles Registration Tax. A careful reading of staff advice shows that we desperately need both if we are going to avoid deep service cuts.

The Mayor said also that he will not support a new tax on parking lots. Staff agree here, showing that similar schemes in Montreal and Vancouver have failed.

  1. Not discussed were the two big ticket funding sources that many major cities rely on: a share of the sales tax and/or a municipal income tax. Given that the Thursday speech was billed as the Mayor’s plan for the future I have to assume that the silence was deliberate and he doesn’t support either. I would be shocked (in a good way) if he came forward to support them.
  1. There are assorted bits and pieces about efficiency. It’s all stuff we were planning to do anyway, and will require some up-front spending before yielding some minor savings down the road.
  1. Finally, when asked after his speech what he intended to do about the fact that his plan won’t meet the City’s overall budget needs, the Mayor replied that he would fight for additional funding from the provincial and federal governments. Staff have made it clear that any funding ask will fall on deaf ears if we keep our property taxes well below every other municipality in the Province. The Province believes that whenever they help us to fund something we take the money and use it to cut property taxes. It’s a fairly accurate conclusion

That’s the plan. A few overall points.

First, the plan leaves us well over $20 billion short on our capital budget. It means we could (almost) afford to fund one of SmartTrack, Rail Deck Park, or the Scarborough Subway, but only one of them. And, if we do one of those we will have next to nothing for the huge and urgent repair needs at TCHC. Nothing toward the $250 million we need for our homes the aged. We can’t build new daycare spaces. The $330 million we need for flood protection for the Lower Don River remains unfunded. As the Mayor said: “No flood proofing means no development, jobs and investment and that would be a massive lost opportunity.”

I could go on. Let’s just say that every public service you can think of has some long term capital need that we can’t meet.

Turning to the operating budget, the Mayor’s plan will eventually be worth about $140 million/year. First, let’s allocate $65 million to the TTC. That’s how much the TTC says they need to avoid deep service cuts even after they put in a fare increase. Next, we’ll give TCHC the remaining $75 million. That’s about how much they say they need just to avoid closing units and housing fewer people. (This is a separate issue from the capital repairs. Because so many TCHC residents are on disability or other social assistance programs, and the Provincial allowance is so low, we don’t get enough rent to cover the daily operation of the building they live in.)

What’s missing? The much-vaunted anti-poverty plan for one. Still another of Thursday’s staff reports states that we would need $48 million to provide the low income transit pass that the anti-poverty plan imagines. Also, TTC service will never improve. Despite the tens of thousands of people moving into Toronto every year, the Mayor’s plan makes no room for increased service. In fact, when the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line opens, we won’t have money to run it. Same with Finch, the Eglinton East and West extensions and the Waterfront LRT.

We won’t add any new daycare spots or daycare subsidies for low income families. No new housing for the tens of thousands on the affordable housing waiting list.

In a couple of weeks, we will see the cuts various departments are proposing to meet the Mayor’s property tax freeze-at-inflation. We won’t have the money to sustainably avoid those cuts. Nothing will get better and many things will get worse.

One last thing before turning to the staff plan. Staff have diligently reviewed all the possible tax and funding options. One thing they looked at was which of the measures are broadly progressive. There are three: property tax, sales tax and income tax. The Mayor’s plan doesn’t recommend any of them. That means that if it’s adopted, lower income people will pay more as percentage of their income than they currently do. Wealthy people will pay proportionately less.

As bad as all this sounds, there’s another wrinkle. In reviewing the Mayor’s plan I’ve treated his proposals as if the money arrives right away. With the exception of the changes to the Land Transfer Tax, each of his proposals will take considerable time to approve and establish. The toll proposal could take as much as seven years to get legislative approval, put out to tender, and construct. All that time we will be using temporary funding that will have to be paid back. More worrisome is there will be two municipal and two provincial elections in that time. Almost certainly there will be a new Mayor and Premier. In other words it will be someone else who had to take the heat.

As I said at the top, the tolls debate is a sideshow, a distraction. If we get mired in a debate about tolls we will miss the real issue. The Mayor’s plan won’t fix any of our underlying problems: better transit, getting people out of poverty, funding our huge capital backlog, or arriving at a sustainable funding model for the services we provide.

What to do? Five brief points.

  1. We follow our staff advice and ask the Province to consider giving us the legal right to implement the sales tax or the municipal income tax.
  1. We also follow our staff advice to immediately reinstate the vehicle registration tax.
  1. We take a cold hard look at the fact that our staff have told us we can either implement a multi-year plan to bring our property tax in line with the GTA average or we can make deep painful cuts to our public services. I know which side I’m on.
  1. We stop wasting time debating the merits of road tolls. We may need to come to a compromise that includes road tolls, but we must first have a real plan that makes Toronto a better place to live for everyone. The one the Mayor put in front of Toronto means a worse future.
  1. We get to work. Convincing people that we actually have to pay for a better City won’t be easy. It will be very difficult and will only happen if we speak out and organize.

Gord

Minutes from the 422-436 Roncesvalles & 76 Howard Park Community Meeting

Posted on October 31, 2016

On October 19th a community meeting was held to hear feedback from the community and give updates on the progress of 422-436 Roncesvalles & 76 Howard Park Ave.

Below is a copy of the handout that was distributed at the meeting, along with a description of what was discussed with each page.

Page 1: This diagram outlines the planning process for developments in the city, highlighting the fact that we are in the community consultation phase, which means meetings with the community members to gather feedback and input about the developer’s proposal.

Page 2: This picture shows the two lots that are joined together in this proposal in relationship to the surrounding neighbourhood, and the approximate site area, frontage, and lot depth.

Page 3: The Neighbourhoods page is meant to give an idea of what the City Planners mean when they use the Neighbourhood terminology, and what sorts of things we are looking to uphold and protect when new development happens.

Page 4: Similar to page 3, this page outlines the City Planning definition of Mixed Use Areas.

Page 5: Again, this page describes and gives examples of what the City considers a Mid-Rise Building.

Page 6: This describes the character of the Roncesvalles Ave Neighbourhood. This type and pattern of building is what the City is trying to maintain and keep balanced with incoming development.

Page 7: This page is not a model of the proposed development, but simply an example used to show the meanings of various planning concepts.

Page 8: A description of the ongoing Dundas and Roncesvalles Study, with outlines of its goals and potential areas of impact in the future.

Page 9: A breakdown of the proposed development, as it currently exists.

Page 10: A list of the issues that currently remain unresolved. In addition to this list a few concerns were raised at the meeting: the impact on Hewitt and Howard Park from laneway traffic flow, noise abatement with regards to the location of the exhaust fans and their proximity to residential properties, amount and location of short term bike parking on nearby streets, and a commitment to create a Construction Management Plan.

422-roncesvalles-community-consultation-abrgd

Minutes from the 422-436 Roncesvalles & 76 Howard Park Community Meeting

Posted on October 31, 2016

On October 19th a community meeting was held to hear feedback from the community and give updates on the progress of 422-436 Roncesvalles & 76 Howard Park Ave.

Below is a copy of the handout that was distributed at the meeting, along with a description of what was discussed with each page.

Page 1: This diagram outlines the planning process for developments in the city, highlighting the fact that we are in the community consultation phase, which means meetings with the community members to gather feedback and input about the developer’s proposal.

Page 2: This picture shows the two lots that are joined together in this proposal in relationship to the surrounding neighbourhood, and the approximate site area, frontage, and lot depth.

Page 3: The Neighbourhoods page is meant to give an idea of what the City Planners mean when they use the Neighbourhood terminology, and what sorts of things we are looking to uphold and protect when new development happens.

Page 4: Similar to page 3, this page outlines the City Planning definition of Mixed Use Areas.

Page 5: Again, this page describes and gives examples of what the City considers a Mid-Rise Building.

Page 6: This describes the character of the Roncesvalles Ave Neighbourhood. This type and pattern of building is what the City is trying to maintain and keep balanced with incoming development.

Page 7: This page is not a model of the proposed development, but simply an example used to show the meanings of various planning concepts.

Page 8: A description of the ongoing Dundas and Roncesvalles Study, with outlines of its goals and potential areas of impact in the future.

Page 9: A breakdown of the proposed development, as it currently exists.

Page 10: A list of the issues that currently remain unresolved. In addition to this list a few concerns were raised at the meeting: the impact on Hewitt and Howard Park from laneway traffic flow, noise abatement with regards to the location of the exhaust fans and their proximity to residential properties, amount and location of short term bike parking on nearby streets, and a commitment to create a Construction Management Plan.

422-roncesvalles-community-consultation-abrgd

6 Noble Street Pre-Application Community Meeting Minutes

Posted on July 4, 2016

Pre-Application Community Meeting: June 20, 2016

Toronto Public Library – Parkdale

Presentation from Developer 6 Noble Street Developments, click here:

Community comments/concerns with application:

  • Building height and density; building should reflect the character of the neighbourhood and integrate well into the surrounding housing. Current proposal (14 storeys + mechanical penthouse) is taller than the community is comfortable with
  • Overflow of parking into surrounding area
  • Increased traffic in neighbourhood
  • Adequate bicycle parking
  • Suggestions of a possible community run bike repair facility to be included in the building
  • Concerns about the price point of the units being built; the developer says it is seeking to build units that are affordable for the neighbourhood
  • Pedestrian crossing safety with consideration towards the Queen/Dufferin intersection
  • Capacity of TTC to deal with increased patronage
  • Concern about construction length, with developer estimating 18-24 month construction period
  • What are the effects going to be in the neighbourhood of three large buildings going up at once?

 

July 4, 2016

 

35 Wabash Avenue

Posted on June 23, 2016

Councillor Perks’ Office has been advised that the developer of 35 Wabash Avenue has appealed the rezoning application to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

___

The Zoning Amendment application for 35 Wabash Avenue was heard at Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) last Tuesday, June 14th, 2016. Many of your neighbours were present, some shared their concerns with the application.

 

The application proposes a 4-storey apartment building containing 60 residential units. There are 68 vehicle parking spaces proposed in one underground level.

 

The staff report :  http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.TE17.5

recommended that the application be approved, however, it recommended that the ‘bills’,  the final legal approval, be held until certain requirements were met- listed in Item #3.

 

  1.  Revise and re-submit the Functional Servicing Report to the satisfaction of the Executive Director, Engineering & Construction Services for review and acceptance.  The report will determine whether the municipal water, sanitary and storm sewer systems can support the proposed development and whether upgrades or improvements to the existing municipal infrastructure are required.

 

  1.  Enter into a financially secured development agreement for the construction of any improvements to the municipal infrastructure, should it be determined that upgrades are required to support this development, according to the functional servicing report accepted by the Executive Director, Engineering & Construction Services.

 
Councillor Perks amended the staff recommendations to include that the site plan requirements, Item #4 must also be approved prior to the issuance of the bills.

  1.  Removal of the windows on the east wall where the building abuts the property line.

 

  1.  Limiting window openings on the east and west elevations to approximately 40% of the wall area with the remainder to be clad to the satisfaction of the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning.

 

iii.  Reducing the proportion of window to wall on the south side of the property to address a typical side-yard to rear-yard relationship, including limiting principal windows and the proportion of windows to wall, to be in the range of 25%.

 

  1. Submission of detailed plans showing the necessary soil volumes provided to ensure healthy tree growth.

 

  1. Appropriate depth of the rooftop planters at the edge of the roof.

 

  1.  The submission of a construction management plan which will also be to the satisfaction of the Ward Councillor.

 

The Community Council meeting is available on YouTube at the 39 minute mark at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5El9W4tnKVU .

 

Since the TEYCC meeting however, Councillor Perks’ Office has been advised that the developer of 35 Wabash Avenue has appealed the rezoning application to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

 

The type of appeal is listed as: Application for an amendment to the Zoning By-law –  failed to make a decision on the application within 120 days.

 

The applicant will be requesting the OMB to approve their rezoning application. The earliest this application is likely to be heard by the OMB is early 2017.

 

At this time City Planning staff will begin preparing a Request for Directions which they will submit to Toronto and East York Community Council in the fall, the Report will seek approval from Council to participate at the OMB hearing.

 

Our office will provide further information as it becomes available.

 

35 Wabash Avenue – Final Staff Report to TEYCC

Posted on June 7, 2016

The Zoning Amendment application for 35 Wabash Avenue will be before Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016. The item will be discussed at 10 AM or as soon as possible thereafter.

The application proposes a 4-storey apartment building containing 60 residential units. There are 68 vehicle parking spaces proposed in one underground level.

Councillor Perks will be supporting City Planning Staff ‘s recommendation to approve this application.

The Final Staff Report is available on-line at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.TE17.5

You can submit your comments or request to speak through Ellen Devlin, TEYCC Secretariat Contact, teycc@toronto.ca, 416-392-7033, 416-397-0111 (fax).

Please feel free to contact this office at any time if you have any questions about this or any city-related matter.

Liberty New Street- Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, April 25th, 2016

Posted on April 21, 2016

In 2008 City Council directed staff to undertake an Environmental Assessment (EA) to secure planning approvals for the design and implementation of a local, east-west street north of the railway corridor in the Liberty Village area.

A Municipal Class EA has been completed and the recommended plan includes a new east-west street, extending between Strachan Avenue and Dufferin Street. The new street would be located north of the Lake Shore West GO Transit rail corridor and would improve accessibility to and from Liberty Village and connectivity throughout. The Staff Report is available on-line at: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.PW12.12

The Report will be at Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Monday, April 25th, 2016.

You can submit your comments or request to speak in writing by mail, fax or e-mail to:

email: pwic@toronto.ca
phone: 416-397-4592
fax: 416-392-1879

Pre-Application Meeting for 57 Brock Avenue

Posted on April 8, 2016

Please share with your Neighbours:

Community Information Meeting – Pre-Application Meeting for  57 Brock Avenue

The developer of 57 Brock Avenue, Block Developments, will be holding a pre-application meeting to discuss their proposed plans for this site.

The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 21st, 6:30-8:30 PM, at the Parkdale Library Auditorium, 1303 Queen St W.

The developer is proposing a 7 storey residential condominium. Details will be available at the community meeting. Councillor Perks and City Planning staff will be in attendance. If you are unable to attend the meeting and are interested in providing comment and/or receiving more detailed information, please email our office at councillor_perks@toronto.ca.

58 Atlantic Avenue/25 Liberty Street Rezoning Application – Thursday, February 25

Posted on February 10, 2016

PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS
 
City Planning is holding a Public Consultation meeting to review the 58 Atlantic Avenue/25 Liberty Street Rezoning Application.
Details are as follows:
Date: Thursday, February 25, 2016
Time: 7 pm – 9 pm
Place: 43 Hanna Avenue (Toy Factory Lofts)
The application proposes to amend the Zoning By-law to permit a
12-storey office building with retail uses at the ground floor and 4 levels of underground parking. The application includes the retention of the building at 25 Liberty St.
 
A Rental House Demolition and Control Application is being reviewed concurrently.
 
You can view a copy of the Preliminary Report providing background Information at: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2016/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-87100.pdf
 
If you are unable to attend the meeting, please forward your comments to Aviva Pelt, City Planner, apelt@toronto.ca and/or Councillor Gord Perks, councillor_perks@toronto.ca.58 Atlantic - Community Meeting Notice - February 25 2016-page-001
 

Minutes from 422-430 Roncesvalles and 76 Howard Park community meeting

Posted on January 25, 2016

City Planning are currently reviewing the application. Once their report is completed and public, our office will share with the community.

Application documents available on-line at:
http://app.toronto.ca/Develo…/associatedApplicationsList.do…

422- 436 Roncesvalles Ave & 76 Howard Park Ave
Community Meeting: January 11, 2016

Following the Presentation from City Planning and Presentation from Developer, the following comments/concerns were shared by community members.

• Building height: Building must support the character of the village
Midrise building is needed, this is taller than what city allows and it does
not respect the Character designation of the street
Townhomes are tall-4 storeys

• Can application be held while Dundas / Roncesvalles Planning Study is underway: no

• Too many units

• Shade-concern with impact of shade a building this size would create

• Privacy-overlook into Hewitt Avenue properties

• Setback-of both building and townhomes are a concern. The City needs to protect neighbourhoods setbacks and green space not shade and wind tunnels. Wind study can be requested.

• Landscape plan: trees

• Traffic flow- concern of cars travelling on Hewitt to exit from lane.- Planning: current application does not show lane continuing through to Hewitt,
TTC will be required to review for comments on streetcar flow, may require a right turn in – right turnout

• Parking units: Concern that the number of vehicles will exceed the spots available (99 units /75 spots) City standards: bike parking, visitor parking, auto share

• Mechanical noise: concern that noise from mechanical will impact on neighbours

• Community amenities: concern with impact of new neighbours, vehicles, dogs on Howard School lands

• Service access: solid waste will review application, city requires that service vehicles not reverse off of the site.

• Mature trees: 5 private trees may be impacted by this application

• There are access issues for properties on Roncesvalles- private issue, however, Planning will need evidence that all outstanding legal issues with neighbours are resolved

• Noise from demolition will continue for 1 ½ to 2 weeks

• There will be a Construction Management Plan to lay out a complaints process and management plan for build once an application is approved.

Community asked if they support application: NO,
if they feel that a few things need to be changed to move forward: NO.
Clear message from community that they do not support the application.

Councillor Perks does not support the application in its current form.

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