As 2021 comes to a close, a lot of us are feeling the same way we did at the start of the year, with optimism for the future, but also with confusion and concern for the safety of our family and friends as we enter the holiday season. Like at the start of the pandemic, we are seeing public health respond at a rapid pace to fight the new omicron variant, with new measures announced daily to protect our communities. The City has extended our COVID protocols, originally expected to expire at the end of this year, until April 2022. As things continue to change, please visit the City’s COVID-19 Information Portal for the latest safety regulations and guidelines, as well as how to book your next vaccine. While the variant may be new, we have been through this battle before. For the health and safety of you and your loved ones, I continue to encourage you to do what we have been doing throughout the pandemic: wear a mask, keep gatherings small, and get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Despite the changes in the world, there is still much to celebrate this season. I want to take this moment to wish you all the best this holiday season, and look forward to a safe and happy 2022!
Local Highlights of the Year
At the beginning of the pandemic, the health and safety of Torontonians became the full-time job of every department in the City. This year, despite the pandemic still being the number one issue, the City started to move forward with a number of important initiatives to build back a stronger, fairer Toronto.
Throughout the year, as a way of staying connected, I have been hosting neighbourhood town halls to talk about the issues affecting you both city wide and directly in your community. This fall we were able to start seeing each other outside and in person. My staff and I have had a chance to visit many of our small business communities. Between checking out the windows in the Junction, the lights at the Baby Point Gates and Parkdale, visiting Santa along Bloor Street, and shouting out “there’s no place like Roncy”, our local businesses are putting their best foot forward for the holidays.
My team will be slowing things down during the next two weeks with only emergency issues being dealt with. While the original plan of a January return to City Hall is no longer in the cards, we look forward to be back together online, working hard and moving forward on January 4.
As the year comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some changes happening in our ward.
The Parkdale Hub project is centred on the City-owned facilities and community services located at the intersection of Queen and Cowan. The phase 1 and 2 of the feasibility study is complete and as part of phase 3, staff have been authorized to initiate expropriation proceedings to acquire 1337 Queen St West, adjacent to the City-owned lands on the Parkdale Hub site. The acquisition of this property is key to the project, and will enable the opportunity to create 109 homes, including a minimum of 50% affordable units and up to 800 square metres of community program space.
This project that started with my motion at City Council in April 2017 is unique in its scale, in its engagement of different City agencies, in its diversity of benefits to the community, and I hope it will serve as a catalyst for more projects like it in the City.
30 km / hour on Local Streets
Back in 2015 the Toronto-East York Community Council converted the speed limit on all local roads in the former ward 14 from 40 to 30 km/h. I am happy to share that we were able to push this initiative city wide this year, making all local roads 30 km/h in the former ward 13 side as well. The street signs are expected to be changed in the New Year. I have also asked Transportation Staff to review our ward’s collector streets to ensure safe and consistent speeds.
Wabash Community Center
This year the third round of public consultation for Wabash Community Center Project allowed the design team to develop multiple site design options which were presented to the community. The Angler site design was selected based on spring and summer consultation with local community members, indigenous representatives, and the City’s operational staff. The fourth round of public consultation began in October, to present and seek further community feedback on a draft design for the new center. To follow the progress of this important project, you can visit the City’s website.
Charles G Williams Park
I am happy to share the opening of the new and expanded Charles G Williams Park. Based on community feedback this project now provides the area with an upgraded playground, upgraded sandbox, the conversion of the wading pool to a new splash pad, an upgraded basketball court, a new junior basketball play area, a refurbished chess table and seating area, a new ping pong table, a new bocce court as well as new amenities for many to enjoy.
I am looking forward to having another successful, community driven plan for the valley’s Florence Gell Park in the year or two ahead.
Cycling Network Plan
This year was the first full year for the Bloor Bike Lane, with its usage continuing to grow. Council recently voted to move forward with consultation on extending the bike lanes from Runnymede Road to Royal York Road in the new year.
150 Dunn Ave
The City of Toronto will be building supportive housing at 150 Dunn Avenue, on the University Health Network (UHN) site. The new building will provide warm, safe homes with supports for approximately 51 people, including women, Indigenous residents, racialized people, and people with disabilities and other people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The new homes will be studio apartments, each with a kitchen and a bathroom, using modular building construction. I will be in touch early next year with updates on the Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) which will provide the zoning relief necessary to advance the modular housing proposal at this location as well as an update on the planned construction. Updates will also be available on the City’s website.
The ward-wide permit parking program is now up and running, ensuring access to parking on your street is accessible. After concern was raised prior to the implementation, I am happy to share that there has been overwhelmingly positive reports since the project has been implemented.
High Park Movement Strategy
The City has been conducting a High Park Movement Strategy study, which looks at improving the travel network to better serve park users and the surrounding community, prioritizing safety, accessibility and preserving the park’s ecological integrity. Over the summer City staff conducted a survey with over 6,000 responses.
In January weekend road closures will continue to provide High Park users with space to get around while respecting physical distancing. Parks staff continue to review data collected from the online survey, community consultation and studies to determine next steps for road closures, balancing the needs and concerns of the many groups that use and love this beautiful and important park.
Many residents and concerned neighbours have been working hard with myself and Transportation Services to make Parkside safer. In November I put forward a successful member’s motion improved safety measures on the street. The new regulations including new signage, a traffic light at Geoffrey, and reducing the speed limit to 40kph.
A long term “Complete Street” redesign which includes wider sidewalks, safer crossing, and bike lanes is also being studied.
Toronto’s Cycling Network Plan also acknowledges that if dedicated cycling facilities on Parkside Drive are recommended by staff through the High Park Movement Strategy, that the route will be added to the next near-term cycling program.
Jane Street & Annette Resurfacing
In 2018 I put forward a successful motion to Council that when a roads are going to be repaved, the City use that opportunity to make important upgrades to ensure pedestrian, cycle, and driver safety are all taken into account. Previous to this, contracts were issued for what is referred to as a “like-for-like” repave.
In 2022, Jane Street between Annette Street and Dundas Street is planned for a road resurfacing, so the City is using this time to examine what improvements can be made, especially around the intersection with Annette and Baby Point. The westbound cycle route along Annette St will have the stop bar pulled back and a bike box added, as well, markings to guide people cycling through the intersection heading west. The eastbound route along Baby Point will have a new short bike lane at the approach of the intersection. The bike lane will be protected with a raised island and have upgraded pavement markings.
King / Queen / The Queensway / Roncesvalles (KQQR)
After a low and complicated construction period, stage one of the KQQR project is complete, and Queen Street West (between Roncesvalles and Triller) has re-opened to through-traffic. The contractor transitioned to Stage 2 work in November. As a part of this work, King Street West is closed to through-traffic from Queen Street West to Wilson Park Drive. Travel lanes on The Queensway from Queen Street West to Parkside Drive will continue to be reduced throughout this stage of work; however, a minimum of one shared lane in each direction will be maintained. More information on the KQQR project could be found here.
City Wide Issues
A number of important city wide initiatives have also been moved forward at Council. Below we have highlighted some of the important steps taken regarding housing and protecting our environment.
Housing: Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA)
A staff report was approved by Council recommending a new program called Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) to support the acquisition of private market rental housing by non-profit housing organizations, including co-operative housing providers. This proposed process is built directly on the work our community did for the Rooming House Acquisition Pilot Project in 2018.
The program will provide grant funding and Open Door Program incentives, which offer exemptions from property taxes and waiver of application fees, to qualified non-profit and Indigenous housing groups to assist them to purchase and renovate existing market rental properties. These properties will be used to create permanently affordable rental homes for Toronto residents with low-and-moderate incomes.
Housing: Inclusionary zoning
Council approved an Inclusionary Zoning Official Plan amendment, a Zoning Bylaw amendment and draft Implementation Guidelines, which will make it mandatory for certain new developments around Protected Major Transit Stations Areas to include affordable rental and ownership housing units beginning in 2022.
While the motion to have minimum affordable housing implemented for purpose-built rental as well as a shorter timeline for increases did not pass, I will be closely monitoring the implementation of the IZ framework and look forward to the review after one year. More information is available on the City’s website.
Housing: Policies to Address the Loss of Dwelling Rooms
Dwelling rooms can be a deeply affordable rental housing option in our city. Research shows that without a policy framework to protect existing dwelling rooms, the city continues to lose this type of rental housing stock as properties undergo redevelopment. In 2019 City Council adopted an official plan amendment to address the concerns.
This year, City staff, with much support from Parkdale community agencies, have provided a policy that will protect dwelling rooms in residential rental properties that contain six or more units. This policy will help protect some of our most precariously housed residents.
Environment: TransformTO’s Net Zero Strategy
Just this week City Council updated our strategy to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto to net zero by 2040, 10 years earlier than initially proposed. I had the great honour of chairing the original TransformTO sub-committee in 2018, and am thrilled to see our work continue to move forward and evolve as the City makes climate change an increased priority. ”
The Net Zero Strategy triggers new and accelerated implementation actions to drive down community-wide emissions, particularly in the short term, and establishes the trajectory needed to reach net zero by 2040. The Strategy also sets an additional interim greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for Toronto: 45 per cent by 2025, from 1990 levels.
The Strategy identifies actions and targets to be achieved by 2030 in key sectors, including buildings, transportation and waste. Toronto’s community-wide emissions must be cut in half in the next 10 years to meet the 2030 target of a 65 per cent emissions reduction.
This strategy is both ambitious and necessary, if we are to protect our communities, our city, and our planet. While I am proud that this measure has passed, we must continue to work to ensure the necessary steps are taken and projects are adequately funded to ensure we reach our goals. This will be a priority for the 2022 City Budget, and moving forward into the new year.