Update on the Province's Bill 108: More Homes, More Choices Act

After years of hard work and advocacy fighting to protect our local neighbourhoods and abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), I'm extremely disheartened to be writing with an update on the Province's Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act, tabled in the legislature late yesterday afternoon.
 
Bill 108 includes major amendments to the planning processes used to review development applications in the City of Toronto. These changes are incredibly discouraging and, if passed, will have a significant impact on the future of our neighbourhoods.
 
Over the past eight years, I've moved countless motions to make our local planning processes more accessible and transparent for residents. As you know, I've been a vocal opponent of the OMB, a quasi-judicial Provincial body that makes the final decision on development applications appealed in Toronto. From the townhouses on Bayview to the towers at Yonge and Eglinton, most of the development applications in Ward 15 have been appealed to and approved by this unelected, unaccountable body.
 
In spring 2017, after significant advocacy from residents across Toronto – including many groups in Ward 15 – the Province announced sweeping changes to the development appeal process through Bill 139. This legislation replaced the OMB with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), a true appeal body with limited power to overrule municipal decisions, and enacted new policies to give communities a stronger voice in the planning process.
 
If passed, the new provincial legislation, Bill 108, will walk back many of the reforms we fought for as a community, including:
 
A return to the former OMB rules and procedures. While the LPAT would continue to function as the provincial development appeal body, the Province is proposing changes in line with the former OMB structure. This legislation would reinstitute "de novo" hearings, or hearings started anew without reference to the City's decision on an application. The Bill would also allow parties to introduce new evidence and to call and examine witnesses. The LPAT will issue a decision independent of the municipalities and neighbourhoods affected instead of reviewing appeals in the context of existing municipal plans and provincial planning policies. 
 
This change would reduce the weight of planning decisions made by City Council and expand the authority of provincial LPAT appointees to make decisions that impact our local neighbourhoods, without any consultation. The proposed changes are essentially a reversion back to the format of the former OMB hearings under the new LPAT name.
 
Changes to development charges. Under the current structure, Section 37 of the Planning Act, known as Community Benefits, requires developers to contribute to the neighbourhoods affected by new developments through provisions for community benefits such as park and streetscape improvements.
 
This system has been used to fund community projects and services across Toronto. Bill 108 proposes to make the costs more predictable for developers at the outset of the process by instituting a new authority that would combine and cap all community-related development charges. Parkland Dedication requirements, known as Section 42 funds, and funds to enhance local infrastructure would also be included in the total capped amount. This change would severely limit the City's ability to negotiate community benefits before approving an application.
 
Streamlining development approvals. The proposed planning decision timelines would reduce consideration of Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) applications from 150 to 90 days, and Official Plan Amendment (OPA) applications from 210 to 120 days.
 
Reducing the time Planners have to review applications and report to City Council will ultimately allow applicants the ability to appeal to the more developer-friendly LPAT system much earlier in the process, thereby circumventing the City's rigorous development review process.
 
Over the coming weeks, I will be working closely with senior staff as we develop the City's formal response to the Province's proposed legislation.
 
If you are interested, I would encourage you to review Bill 108 and the associated Action Plan and share any concerns with your Member of Provincial Parliament.
 
You can submit your comments on Bill 108 through the Environmental Registry of Ontario, here. I've been advised that the Province will only be accepting comments until June 1, 2019, so we must act quickly.
 
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Tribute to Nick Sion

This past March we lost a great Ward 15 resident, Nicholas Sion.

Among his many contributions to the community, Nick was a passionate advocate for tenants’ rights and the Yonge-Eglinton Neighbourhood. Nick served as the President of the Upper Canada Tenant Association for many years.

Nick was a mechanical engineer and a research physicist. He had a proud history of working with aerospace avionics, radioisotopes, radiation monitoring instrumentation and reactor controls.

Hard working and multi-talented, Nick reveled in his life achievement of contributing to NASA’s inSight Mission. Nick will be greatly missed.

Local Business Feature: Ardith One

Ardith One has been drawing people to the Yonge & Lawrence area for hand-crafted pottery since the early 1970s, when owners Bev and Bill Don opened a store dedicated to quality, hand-made Canadian crafts.

Bev has also been an integral part of the local business community since 1978, and has chaired the Yonge-Lawrence Village BIA for 18 years.

After almost 50 years in business, Ardith One will be closing its doors in June. The June 8 Yonge-Lawrence Village Day will be the store’s final sidewalk sale.

Congratulations, Bev and Bill! Ward 15 wishes you the best.

Transit Expansion in Toronto

In March, the City Manager released a comprehensive update on transit expansion planning in Toronto. This report makes it clear that the TTC and City have made significant progress on our planned transit expansion projects to-date.

I’ve been pushing to prioritize and accelerate the construction of the Relief Line for the past eight years both as the Councillor for Don Valley West and the new TTC Chair. The Yonge Line is one of the busiest transit lines in North America, with an average of 730,000 riders every weekday. The report confirms that the Relief Line remains our top transit priority and includes a recommendation allocating federal funding available through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund to the project.

Without any significant changes, shovels could be in the ground to construct the Relief Line as early as next year. In February, I was joined by the Mayor to announce a new plan to fast-track construction by 2-3 years. TTC staff are making significant progress on the detailed design and will be prepared to proceed with procurement shortly.

The transit report identifies three other major projects ready to move to procurement and construction within the next year: the SmartTrack Stations Program, Exhibition Loop Streetcar Connection and Line 2 East Extension. The expansion of Bloor-Yonge Station will also be accelerated to accommodate growing ridership on Line 1.

On April 10, the Province announced an ambitious transit network plan building on the priority projects identified by the City. While we welcome the additional funding committed to Toronto’s subway system, we still have many questions about the costs, plans, and timelines for the proposed projects. City staff are beginning to assess the changes and will be reporting back to City Council with their findings.

The Province’s LPASC is Closing

Last spring, the Province’s Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC) was introduced to provide expert advice and legal assistance to residents participating in the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) development appeal process. The LPASC was an integral part of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) reform passed by the Provincial Legislature in 2017.

In February, the Province suddenly announced that they would be permanently closing the LPASC. Effective immediately, the Centre will no longer be accepting new requests from the public.

Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Province’s decision. At the February meeting of City Council, I supported a motion strongly opposing the closure of the LPASC. In my remarks, I spoke at length about the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents participating in complex and expensive proceedings at the LPAT, formerly known as the OMB.

The appeal process is difficult to navigate and often leaves engaged neighbours feeling like they are in a David and Goliath battle against powerful, well-funded developers. While professional developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in LPAT mediation or hearings are often prohibitive for concerned neighbours and associations. I would encourage you to reach out to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs to share your concerns about this decision.

Neighbourhood Policing Program

Toronto Police Services (TPS) is modernizing. As our city continues to grow and change – with no sign of slowing down – so, too, must our Policing strategies. Recognizing this, TPS and its Transformational Task Force have assessed the needs of our dynamic communities and created the Neighbourhood Policing Program (NPP).

The NPP is a modernized program that is neighbourhood-centric and aims to reduce crime by assigning specialized officers to individual neighbourhoods. This approach will “humanize the badge” and allow officers to familiarize themselves with the unique needs of each of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods. In October, TPS announced plans to expand the NPP from a 96-officer pilot to a force-wide, transformational strategy.

While Toronto has been ranked the safest city in North America, I know crime and safety remains a top concern for the residents of Don Valley West. In the 2019 budget, City Council approved funding to hire more than 300 new officers to join the TPS ranks. This comes in addition to the 200 new officers we approved funding for in 2018 – meaning that there will be more than 500 new pairs of boots on the ground to ensure our communities remain safe.

Road Safety

Last term, I spearheaded Toronto’s first-ever comprehensive Road Safety Plan as former Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. The plan takes a data-based, strategic approach and includes more than 50 countermeasures across multiple emphasis areas – pedestrians, school safety zones, senior safety zones, cyclists, aggressive driving and distraction.

Some of our top priorities are school children and school neighbourhoods, and I’ve been working to accelerate the roll-out of School Safety Zones across the ward. School Safety Zones feature lower speed limits, improved street lighting, leading pedestrian intervals, mid-block crossings, increased enforcement, improved pavement makings, flashing signage, and “Watch Your Speed” driver feedback signs.

This school year, the City is transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to the Transportation Services division. Unfortunately, some of our school communities went without regular crossing guard coverage this year due to the number of newly warranted crosswalks and the unexpected volume of guards that retired. With the support of Ward 15 school parents, I moved a motion at City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services address the issue immediately. My motion resulted in the City hiring two additional contractors to backfill unstaffed crossing guard locations for the remainder of the 2018-2019 school year.

As part of Vision Zero, Ward 15 now has access to 8 of its very own mobile Watch Your Speed driver feedback signs. These signs contain a radar device with an LED display that shows the operating speeds of passing motorists, reminding them to obey the posted speed limit. These signs are installed on a temporary basis at the request of local residents, and have been shown to reduce driver speeds by up to 34%. To request a Watch Your Speed Sign on your street, please call or email my office.

An Update on Metrolinx’s Eglinton Crosstown Project

As you may know, Metrolinx is an agency of the Government of Ontario currently overseeing construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Crosslinx is an amalgamated group of the various contractors and subcontractors actually delivering the construction work.

Bayview

After numerous meetings with Metrolinx, Crosslinx, and the Provincial government about the traffic and safety impacts of the Bayview and Eglinton intersection closure, I am pleased to advise that this intersection will re-open later this spring.

Mount Pleasant

Crosslinx is currently in the process of installing tent structures to cover their shallow excavation at the future Mount Pleasant Station. Three tents will be used to cover the work area for a period of 4 months. The entire structure will fit within the limits of their current construction site and I’ve been assured that there will be no impacts to motorists or pedestrians.

Leslie

Last month, Metrolinx held a public meeting to present their traffic plan for Leslie and Eglinton that will require implementing northbound turn restrictions from Eglinton to Leslie for eight weeks beginning in July.

As the Crosstown project continues, I will continue to ensure that concerns I hear from residents are communicated directly to senior staff at Metrolinx.

If you are interested, you can register to receive updates from Metrolinx directly here: http://www.thecrosstown.ca/newsmedia/whats-new/construction-updates. You can also call the East Crosstown Community Office at 416-482-7411 or visit 660 Eglinton Avenue East. I would also encourage you to contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) with any questions or concerns.

Local Business Feature: The Flaky Tart

The Flaky Tart, located at 711 Mount Pleasant Road, is an independent bakery on the Western border of our Ward that has been open for almost ten years. George Brown College educated baker Lisa Biemans has honed her skills at other bakeries, but for the last three years she has owned and operated the Flaky Tart. Chef Lisa works diligently to supply the neighbourhood with delicious desserts.
 
The desserts the Flaky Tart craft have an amazing homemade feel because everything is made from scratch in-house. Lisa and her team find innovative solutions to ensure that everything they bake is not only delicious, but also nut-free.
 
In addition to the bakery, Flaky Tart products are available at McEwan grocery stores. The shopfront also sells custom cakes and desserts for birthdays, weddings, or any other special event needing a tasty treat.
 
Whether you're strolling through the Mount Pleasant Village, or planning your next event that calls for a knock out sweet treat, be sure to visit Chef Lisa at the Flaky Tart and have a taste of what's good.
 
You can call the Flaky Tart at 416-484-8278 or email flakytart@gmail.com.

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Protecting our Leaside Business Park

The Leaside Business Park is a major industrial park in the heart of Toronto, with direct access to the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 401.
 
Since October's election, I've heard from neighbours across Leaside concerned about the future of the Business Park. Specifically, many Leasiders want to ensure that planning policies will protect the Park from an influx of condo buildings and other residential developments.
 
In January, the Government of Ontario announced their plans to introduce new amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017. The Province proposed the implementation of a new designation, Provincially Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ), but only extended it to 67% of Toronto's current Employment Areas.
 
While the 67% percent of lands would receive additional protections, the remaining 33% could potentially be "unlocked" for redevelopment. The Leaside Business Park was not designated a PSEZ in the Province's initial plan.
 
My office caught this issue early and developed a strategy to ensure the Leaside Business Park would be included in City staff's recommendations to the Province. I am pleased to report that our efforts paid off and City Council adopted the staff report requesting the Province to designate the Leaside Business Park a PSEZ. In my remarks, I highlighted the importance of use compatibility and reiterated my commitment to protecting our Business Parks from residential incursions.
 
Though City Council has submitted their comments and recommendations on the proposed amendments, the ultimate decision lies with the Government of Ontario.
 
When I met with the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I request ed that the Province include the Leaside Business Park as a PSEZ in their final amendments to the Growth Plan. I specifically articulated the value of the employment provided by the Leaside Business Park and advocated for its continued protection.

The Minister seemed receptive to my comments and I am cautiously optimistic that the Province will make the changes necessary for the continued protection of Toronto's valued Employment Areas. Thank you to the Leaside Business Park Association (LPBA) and Leaside Property Owners' Association (LPOA) for their ongoing support.

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Update on the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan

As many of you know, I've been a vocal opponent of the out-of-control pace of development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In the absence of a comprehensive and up-to-date Secondary Plan, development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood has gone unchecked by the Province for many years.
 
The negative consequences of this rapid intensification include overcrowded transit, constant construction, traffic congestion, lack of sunlight, significant dust, and lack of green space.
 
Last summer, City Council voted to approve the new Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 405. You can read more about our community's successful efforts to amend the Secondary Plan and reduce the permitted building heights on my website, here.
 
The Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan requires approval by the Minister of Municipal Affairs before officially coming into effect. We've been advised that the Minister has recently extended his time period to make a decision until June 6, 2019.
 
In light of this impending deadline, I met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs immediately to advise him of our collective efforts on this file over the past eight years. While I cannot predict the Minister's ultimate decision with any certainty, he listened closely to my summary of the community's concerns. Specifically, we discussed how the flood of Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approvals in this neighbourhood has placed an immense amount of pressure on our existing infrastructure.
 
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the residents of the north-east quadrant of Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood for your support throughout this process.

School Visits at City Hall

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Welcoming student groups to City Hall is one of the best parts of my role as a City Councillor – It reminds me of the importance of the work we do every day to build a more vibrant, liveable, and safe City.
 
In February, I welcomed students from Northlea Public School in Leaside who stopped in to the TTC Board Meeting I was chairing to observe local transit planning in action. I was impressed by the great questions and ideas the students shared with me.
 
The City of Toronto offers free educational programs and tours for students of all ages. More information for parents or teachers can be found here.

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TTC Fare Evasion

As a regular transit user, I know how frustrating fare evasion is for the residents of Toronto who consistently pay to travel on the TTC. Every dollar lost through fare evasion is one less dollar available for much-needed service improvements.  
 
In February, the City's Auditor General released a comprehensive report assessing the cost of TTC fare evasion. Based on an extensive investigation, the Auditor General estimates that the current fare evasion rate is about 5.4%, meaning that the TTC lost close to $64.1 million in passenger revenue in 2018. The highest rate of fare evasion was identified on the streetcar network, where it is estimated that 1/10 passengers do not pay their fares.
 
The recommendations included in the report will guide the TTC's action plan moving forward as we approach full transition to the PRESTO farecard system. This year, the TTC is planning to further enhance the existing fare inspection.Currently, the TTC is in the process of rolling out new technologies to discourage fare evasion across the network.
 
Despite the difficult transition to the new system, PRESTO will provide the TTC with an opportunity to track fare evasion more consistently and accurately than ever before. For the first time, the TTC will have the ability to cross-reference PRESTO ridership data with the number of "boardings" registered by automatic passenger count technologies on buses and streetcars. As I always say, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. This valuable data will give us a better picture of ridership and allow us to identify priority routes. 
 
I hear from residents across Toronto concerned about PRESTO equipment that seems to always be malfunctioning or out of service. At the February TTC Board Meeting, I moved a motion reaffirming the Board's commitment to ensuring that Metrolinx delivers the agreed-upon service levels for fare collection equipment.
 
Throughout her review, the Auditor General observed fraudulent usage and distribution of the Child PRESTO cards. In response to these findings, I moved motions to request that Metrolinx implement visible or audible differentiators for all discounted fare categories. I was very concerned by the high instance of fraud and will be investigating this issue closely in the coming months.

As the new TTC Chair, I look forward to implementing vital revenue protection initiatives and continuing the Auditor General's important work to identify gaps in the TTC's fare collection system.

A Discouraging Update – The LPASC is Closing

In my last newsletter, I provided a brief introduction to the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC). The LPASC was introduced to level the playing field for residents participating in the development appeal process.  
 
In February, the Province announced their decision to close the LPASC permanently. Effective immediately, the Centre will no longer be accepting new requests from the public.
 
Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Province's decision. At the February meeting of City Council, I endorsed the following motion:
 
That City Council advise the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that the City objects to the closure of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre.
 
In my remarks to Council, I spoke at length about the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents participating in the complex and expensive development appeal process. The process is difficult to navigate and often leaves engaged neighbours feeling like they are in a David and Goliath battle against powerful, well-funded developers.
 
While professional developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in an OMB mediation or hearing are often prohibitive for concerned neighbours and residents' associations.
 
I would encourage you to reach out to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs to share your concerns about this decision.

Mobile Watch Your Speed Program

Traffic infiltration and vehicle speeds are issues in many Ward 15 neighbourhoods.
 
As part of the City's Vision Zero Road Safety Program, new mobile Watch Your Speed Program (WYSP) signs have been installed throughout the City on a rotational, per-request basis.
 
The mobile WYSP uses LED driver feedback signs to measure the speeds of oncoming vehicles and display them to passing motorists. These new, solar-powered signs are installed on hydro poles or streetlights and are rotated throughout the ward. WYSP signs typically stay in place for 2-3 week periods.
 
In a 2016 study, staff found that where a mobile WYSP sign was installed, vehicle operating speeds decreased on that street. The City installed 188 WYSP signs in 2018 and this number will increase in 2019.
 
For more information on the Watch Your Speed Program and to request a sign on your street, please visit the City's website.

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Relief 'en route' at Bayview and Eglinton

After numerous conversations with Metrolinx and Crosslinx regarding the traffic and safety implications of the current configuration of the Bayview and Eglinton intersection, I am pleased to advise that this intersection will re-open later this spring and return to its previous configuration.
 
In other Crosstown-related news, Crosslinx is in the process of installing tent structures to cover their shallow excavation at Mount Pleasant station site near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton. Crosslinx will require 3 tents to cover their work area for a period of 4 months. The entire structure will fit within the limits of their current construction site, without having to change the traffic set up. Water runoff will be contained within the site as the tents will not go past any construction fences. I have been assured that there will be no impacts to motorists or pedestrians.

Finally, Metrolinx will be holding a public meeting this Thursday, April 4 regarding plans for construction at Leslie and Eglinton. Please find more details on the meeting below:

Date: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Location: Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct.)
 
As the Crosstown project continues, I will maintain my efforts to ensure that concerns I hear from residents about aspects of the project are communicated directly to senior staff at Metrolinx.
 
If you are looking to receive updates and information from Metrolinx directly, you can sign up for their e-news distribution list here: http://www.thecrosstown.ca/news-media/whats-new/construction-updates. You can also call the East Crosstown Community Office at 416-482-7411, or visit in person at 660 Eglinton Avenue East (at the Northeast corner of Bayview and Eglinton).

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Crime and Safety Update

It is clear to me that issues around public safety and crime remain top of mind for residents across Don Valley West. While Toronto is currently ranked the safest city in North America, I want to ensure that the residents of Ward 15 continue to feel safe and secure in our neighbourhoods.

Toronto Police are integral to our community-based safety efforts. As part of the 2019 Toronto City Budget, City Council approved more than 300 new officers. This is on top of the more than 200 police officers the City provided funding for in 2018. These 500 new officers will help to ensure that Toronto Police have the front-line resources they need to keep our neighbourhoods safe.

In order to ensure that these new police officers are able to direct their efforts to high priority and emergency situations, Toronto Police will be 'civilianizing' 184 uniform positions. This means that, in 2019, 184 positions within TPS will be filled by civilian employees rather than officers. These positions are largely administrative, freeing up officers whose time is better spent in our communities. This initiative is one of many that Toronto Police are exploring to deliver more effective service to residents.

Crossing Guards Update

In recent months, I have been contacted by Don Valley West parents regarding the unacceptable gaps in crossing guard coverage in some of our school communities.
 
The City of Toronto is in the process of transitioning responsibility for the school crossing guard program from Toronto Police Services (TPS) to its Transportation Services division. While TPS is responsible for the provision of crossing guards for the 2018-2019 school year, the City has worked with them to contract an independent security service provider for relief coverage when a regular crossing guard is absent from work.

This school year, a number of crosswalks in our neighbourhoods have been without regular guard coverage due to the unexpected number of guards that retired and newly warranted locations.
 
As a result of this, I moved a motion at the December 2018 meeting of City Council requesting that the General Manager, Transportation Services make recommendations to improve and enhance the school crossing guard program. I have since followed this up with two meetings City management requesting immediate attention to the matter and urging staff to use all tools at their disposal to ensure that the City is providing reliable crossing guard coverage.
 
The City responded by pursuing an additional sole-sourced contract to manage demand and fill the remaining crossing guard vacancies in Ward 15. These new crossing guards have now completed police vulnerable sector screening and training and commenced duties on March 4th.
 
The importance of school crossing safety cannot be overstated and I will continue to advocate for students and parents across the ward until this issue is resolved. If you notice an unstaffed crossing guard post, please report it to the City's school crossing guard program by emailingSchoolCrossingGuard@toronto.ca, or call 311.