Improving Transparency and Accountability at the Committee of Adjustment

Improvements to the Committee of Adjustment are on the way!

Back in June 2014, I moved a successful motion requesting city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment. In particular, I asked for:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well-informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

For the full text of my motion, click here.

I’m pleased to announce that, at this month’s Planning and Growth Management Committee, city staff brought forward a report recommending the purchase and installation of a device that would allow for the full audio-visual recording of Committee of Adjustment meetings.

Click here to read the report.

Audio-visual recordings of Committee of Adjustment panels will improve the transparency of the process by keeping a record of the meetings.

The device will be installed at City Hall in January 2016.

While there is a significant amount of work still to be done to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, I’m heartened to see the realization of one of my long-standing recommendations. I look forward to seeing more improvements to the Committee of Adjustment in the near future.

The Planning and Growth Management Committee also requested a report on the feasibility of live-streaming Committee of Adjustment meetings – this means you could follow the meetings from the comfort of your home.

Be on the lookout for that report in 2016!

Toronto Hydro Outage Map and Tips

Toronto Hydro just launched a new and improved version of its outage map.

The map’s new features include status updates on outages and estimated times for
restoration.

The outage map is also more user-friendly and provides detailed boundaries of
current outages. You can also search the map by address.

Toronto Hydro is currently working on a notification program that will provide you with
updates during major outages. You can register for outage alerts here.

If power is down following a snow storm, Toronto Hydro suggests following these tips:

  • Check to see if your neighbours have power. If they don’t, it is likely that more work is planned on your street.
  • If your home is the only house without electricity, check your electrical panel inside your home to see if the breakers are in the “on” position.
  • Check outside and visually inspect if the electrical equipment on your home is damaged or if the service wire is down. If the customer-owned connection point (usually the pipe and wires attached to your home connected to the powerline) is damaged, you may need to contact an ESA-certified electrical contractor. A list is available on the ESA’s website at http://www.esasafe.com.

In the event of a power outage this winter, you can contact Toronto Hydro’s Customer Care team at (416) 542-8000. This number can also be used to report emergencies such as downed or sagging wires.

You may also report power outages and streetlight outages by visiting this link or by calling 311.

For additional information on emergency preparedness, please click here.

Local Appeal Body

As no doubt you’re aware, Toronto is facing incredible intensification pressure. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the city is getting traction on real and significant planning reform!

In my first term in office, I worked with the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the establishment of a Local Appeal Body (LAB) off the ground. City Council approved the LAB in July 2014.

The LAB will be an independent decision-making body that will replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in hearing appeals of minor variance and consent applications.

The goal is to give Toronto more control over defining its own neighbourhoods. For example, the city, not the province, will appoint LAB members and set up the appointments process. The LAB will also determine its own rules of practice and procedure.

A report from City Planning about the LAB will be coming to Executive Committee in January 2016.

For more information on the LAB, check out this staff presentation from spring 2014.

Intensification in the Yonge & Eglinton Community

Toronto is experiencing unprecedented growth. While many neighbourhoods are feeling the pinch, few are experiencing levels of growth and change like the Yonge-Eglinton area. This growth has direct impacts on our built form and infrastructure – from transit to schools to stormwater management.

That’s why, in July 2015, I asked the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

The goal of the study, the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, is to develop an evidence-based planning approach that can better inform the development review process and policy-making moving forward.

From my perspective, any and all growth needs to be effectively managed to ensure the continued liveability of our community. These planning tools will guide the vision, form and fit of future developments with a focus on the context-specific character of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

Building on the recently City Council-approved Midtown in Focus, a plan focusing on public realm improvements to streets, buildings and open spaces, the Yonge and Eglinton Review is really four plans in one. Using recent growth analyses, the Review examines built form, cultural heritage, community infrastructure and transportation and municipal services.

A key component of the review involves a detailed analysis of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transportation networks, water, wastewater and energy. The final report will outline what infrastructural improvements would be needed based on projected growth estimates.

Expected in Spring 2016, the report will enhance the development review process by providing hard data on the multiple impacts of intensification in Yonge-Eglinton.

The bottom line is that we want to maintain the unique feel of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and the characteristics that make it a vibrant community.

For updates on the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, click here.

Intensification in the Yonge & Eglinton Community

Toronto is experiencing unprecedented growth. While many neighbourhoods are feeling the pinch, few are experiencing levels of growth and change like the Yonge-Eglinton area. This growth has direct impacts on our built form and infrastructure – from transit to schools to stormwater management.

That’s why, in July 2015, I asked the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

The goal of the study, the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, is to develop an evidence-based planning approach that can better inform the development review process and policy-making moving forward.

From my perspective, any and all growth needs to be effectively managed to ensure the continued liveability of our community. These planning tools will guide the vision, form and fit of future developments with a focus on the context-specific character of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

Building on the recently City Council-approved Midtown in Focus, a plan focusing on public realm improvements to streets, buildings and open spaces, the Yonge and Eglinton Review is really four plans in one. Using recent growth analyses, the Review examines built form, cultural heritage, community infrastructure and transportation and municipal services.

A key component of the review involves a detailed analysis of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transportation networks, water, wastewater and energy. The final report will outline what infrastructural improvements would be needed based on projected growth estimates.

Expected in Spring 2016, the report will enhance the development review process by providing hard data on the multiple impacts of intensification in Yonge-Eglinton.

The bottom line is that we want to maintain the unique feel of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and the characteristics that make it a vibrant community.

For updates on the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, click here.

Traffic Calming Options Manual

As Chair of Public Works, I’m committed to making our roads safer for all users –  motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

That’s why, earlier this year, I moved a motion asking for a comprehensive Road Safety Plan for Toronto to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries on our roads.

Further, at this month’s Public Works and Infrastructure meeting, I requested that an easy-to-use Traffic Calming Options Manual be developed as part of the Road Safety Plan.

The manual will outline all of the different traffic calming options and their impacts, costs and effectiveness. The goal is to make the information about traffic calming alternatives transparent and accessible to everyone – whether you’re a city official, traffic expert or resident.

You can read my motion here.

A draft of the Road Safety Plan will be coming to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2016.

Splash Guards on the Bayview Bridge

The new splash guards provide safe passage along the bridge for pedestrians in Ward 25. They’ll create a safer walking route for travel to and from the Crescent School, the Toronto French School, the York University Glendon Campus, and the Granite Club.

Many thanks to Gary Gund, Allan Vice and Bruce and Cee Cee Robertson for helping to make this happen!

Splash guards on the Bayview Bridge.

Splash guards on the Bayview Bridge.

Toronto’s Road Safety Strategic Plan

In October, I met with the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg, to discuss and share information about transportation and transit initiatives. New York is nationally and internationally recognized as a leader in designing safe streets.

One of our main topics of conversation was Vision Zero, a strategy initiated in Sweden in 1997 that strives to reduce traffic fatalities. The strategy primarily focuses on analyzing the structural causes of accidents and then working to address these problems. A number of major American cities, including New York, Boston and Los Angeles, have adopted variations of Vision Zero.

Here in Toronto, we’re developing a customized Road Safety Strategic Plan that addresses the needs of diverse road users.

You can read my motion here.

We are reviewing our current policies and guidelines on road safety and conducting an enhanced analysis of collision data. A key part of the plan also involves looking at what other cities are doing and how we can adapt international best practices, including Vision Zero, to create our own Toronto-specific road safety initiative.

I’m kicking off the New Year by chairing a roundtable where we’ll work with key stakeholders to brainstorm and develop specific strategies to significantly improve the safety of our shared streets.

Stay tuned for updates!

Jaye with Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation, and Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services.

Jaye with Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation, and Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services.

Winter Operations Guide

As Chair of Public Works, I’m pleased to tell you that the city is prepared to tackle whatever winter throws at us. We have a great team and a great plan in place!

First and foremost, we’ve got a huge arsenal including 571 road plows, 329 sidewalk plows, 202 salt trucks and about 1,500 personnel.

There’s no doubt that snow clearing is a big operation – the city has 5,605 km of roads on 9,500 streets, along with 6,000 km of sidewalks and 262,000 driveways.

During a winter storm, the city’s priority is to clear expressways, collectors and main roads. It may take extra time to get out to the local streets.

Icy sidewalks are a serious pedestrian safety hazard, particularly for our older neighbours and those with accessibility issues. So please be nice and clear your ice!

Senior city staff advised that contacting 311, the city’s 24-hour service portal, after a storm is the fastest and most efficient way to report snow and ice issues. Each time you contact 311, your issue is recorded (with a service request number that can be tracked) and the request goes immediately to Transportation Services for investigation and follow up.

It’s also important to note that snow, ice and freeze-thaw cycles can cause serious damage to our roadways.

To report potholes, phone 311 or visit www.toronto.ca/311. Have the closest municipal address on hand – it helps pothole repair crews work efficiently.

As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to show off the city’s arsenal of winter equipment!

As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to show off the city’s arsenal of winter equipment!

Noise By-law

As you’re probably aware, the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division is reviewing the existing noise bylaw.

The goal of the review is to make sure that the noise bylaw is up-to-date based on in-depth research and extensive public consultation.

Between March and August 2015, city staff were hard at work conducting detailed analysis and soliciting stakeholder and public feedback. In order to maximize the opportunity for residents to offer their feedback, I requested that the online survey be extended until mid-September.

City staff are currently writing the final report on the review. It’s expected to head to the Licensing and Standards Committee on January 22, 2016 and will be available online.

Committee meetings provide a unique opportunity for residents to offer their feedback in front of City Councillors, staff and fellow residents.

If you’d like to give a written or oral deputation on the final report of the noise bylaw review in January, please email lsc@toronto.ca or phone 416-397-4592.

Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

As the cold weather approaches, it’s important to take steps to protect your pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can leave you without water. They can also burst and cause damage to your home and property.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent your pipes from freezing:

Be knowledgeable

  • Make sure you know where the main water shut-off valve is in your home and how to turn it on and off.

Insulate pipes

  • Insulate pipes with foam pipe covers. Outside pipes and those located near outside walls and crawl spaces are at the greatest risk of freezing.

Eliminate drafts

  • Seal all air leaks in your home and garage to prevent cold air from getting in. Double-check around doors, windows, electrical wiring and pipes.

Drain the outdoor water supply

  • Outdoor faucets freeze first. Unscrew outdoor hoses, let the taps drain, and turn off the outdoor water supply.

Know a plumber

  • Have the contact information of a reliable plumber readily available. If your pipes are continually freezing, there may be an underlying plumbing problem that requires professional assistance.

When the weather drops significantly below 0ºC, ensure that areas containing indoor pipes (especially those near the water meter) are maintained at 8ºC or higher. Consider opening cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around the pipes. It’s also a good idea to keep your garage door closed during extremely cold weather.

For extra peace of mind during a cold snap, you can also turn on your tap to run a pencil-thin stream of water. This will ensure some movement of water in the pipes. Remember, though, you will incur fees for water use if you opt to take this step.

Staying Safe on the Roads

Every fall and winter there is an increase in the number of pedestrian and cyclist collisions on city roads due to reduced daylight hours.

It’s key that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists become more aware of other users as they travel on our streets throughout these seasons.

One of the best ways to ensure safety is to stay focused on what you’re doing – whether you’re driving, cycling or crossing an intersection by foot. Don’t talk or text on your phone. Be aware of your surroundings.

Here are some other tips from the city’s “Stay Alert – Stay Safe” safety education campaign:

Drivers

  • Always yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • Note that pedestrians in dark clothing can be difficult to spot during the fall and winter months.
  • Take extra caution at nighttime and during wet or wintery weather conditions.

Pedestrians

  • Cross streets at traffic signals, intersections and crosswalks.
  • Always look carefully before crossing and make sure all vehicles are stopped.
  • Wear bright clothing or clothing with reflective materials if possible, especially at night. Drivers often have a difficult time seeing pedestrians in dark clothes.

Cyclists

  • Make sure you have both front and back lights for your bike and turn them on when riding at night, dusk or dawn.
  • Wear clothing and other cycling accessories with reflective materials.

Ward Boundary Review

The Toronto Ward Boundary Review released its Options Report this past summer. The report outlines five options for redrawing the city’s existing ward boundaries.

The alternatives range from increasing or decreasing the number of wards to maintaining the current number of wards but adjusting their boundaries.

The next stage of the review process is to collect public feedback on the various options.

The month of September saw three public consultation meetings in North York. Public consultations in other parts of Toronto are underway and will conclude in later this fall.

The final report on ward boundaries is due to head to City Council in spring 2016.

You can give your feedback on the five options for ward boundaries by filling out this survey!

For updates on the Ward Boundary Review, follow @drawthelinesTO on Twitter!

Ward Boundary Review

The Toronto Ward Boundary Review released its Options Report this past summer. The report outlines five options for redrawing the city’s existing ward boundaries.

The alternatives range from increasing or decreasing the number of wards to maintaining the current number of wards but adjusting their boundaries.

The next stage of the review process is to collect public feedback on the various options.

The month of September saw three public consultation meetings in North York. Public consultations in other parts of Toronto are underway and will conclude in later this fall.

The final report on ward boundaries is due to head to City Council in spring 2016.

You can give your feedback on the five options for ward boundaries by filling out this survey!

For updates on the Ward Boundary Review, follow @drawthelinesTO on Twitter!

Traffic Jam Hackathon

With Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Myles Currie, Director of the Traffic Management Centre

With Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Myles Currie, Director of the Traffic Management Centre

Congestion is an $11 billion-a-year problem in Toronto and it’s my key priority as Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

Earlier this year, I directed city transportation staff to explore how we can use big data to understand, evaluate and reduce congestion and gridlock.

Big data focuses on using advanced analytics to mine and make use of massive amounts of information from different sources, such as GPS locational data, traffic cameras as well as Bluetooth and wifi information – to name a few.

In October 2015, I helped kick off the city’s first ever Hackathon. Cosponsored by Evergreen CityWorks, the event brought together more than 150 talented individuals from across disciplinary lines and gave them 48 hours to jump start solutions to gridlock using a variety of different data sources.

Click here for more information about the Hackathon and the winning ideas.

Intensification and Development Pressure in Yonge-Eglinton

Intensification is a major issue across Ward 25. The Yonge-Eglinton area in particular is facing very significant development pressure.

That’s why I moved a motion earlier this year at City Council directing the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage the growth and intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. Click here to read my motion.

I also directed staff to accelerate the built form study of the Yonge-Eglinton area. The goal of this study is to develop up-to-date policies to guide growth and maintain the neighbourhood’s quality of life. The study builds on the Midtown in Focus plan, a City Council approved strategy to improve parks, open spaces and streets.

To stay up-to-date about the master plan for the Yonge-Eglinton area, click here.

Extension of the Richmond-Adelaide Cycle Tracks

Opening the extended cycle track on Richmond with Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto, Alan Heisey, Vice-Chair of the TTC, Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Jacquelyn Haywood Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs.

Opening the extended cycle track on Richmond with Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto, Alan Heisey, Vice-Chair of the TTC, Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Jacquelyn Haywood Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs.

In 2014, the city installed separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street from Bathurst to York/Simcoe. This pilot project assessed the feasibility of separated bike lanes on these corridors.

In June 2015, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee received a report on the pilot. Early results are promising! Cycling volumes on Adelaide have tripled while those on Richmond have more than doubled. Even better, there’s been no negative impact on congestion.

You can read highlights from the evaluation report here.

As chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, I moved a motion to extend the cycle track pilot on Richmond and Adelaide east to Parliament.

The Richmond extension is now complete, and work on Adelaide is underway and will be completed later this fall.

Increasing Fees in Construction Contracts

I chaired the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in summer 2015 where we approved a pilot to apply acceleration and delay costs in construction contracts.

The goal is to reduce congestion by speeding up construction on city roads, particularly high-traffic corridors.

The pilot has a two-pronged approach:

  • Financial penalties for construction delays
  • An innovative tendering process that considers both overall cost and completion time

Other jurisdictions, including Ottawa and York Region, have had success in applying acceleration and delay costs to high-priority construction projects.

City staff will report back on the pilot to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2017.

Click here for more information.

The City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy

City staff are in the midst of developing a Long Term Waste Management Strategy that will help define Toronto’s waste management plans for the next thirty years.

The city is casting its net widely to consider the newest methods of waste management and disposal.

An update on the Long Term Waste Management Strategy came before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on September 22, 2015. You can read the report here. The final report is expected in Spring 2016.

Click here for the latest news on the Long Term Waste Management Strategy.

The 10-Year Cycling Network Plan

The City of Toronto is developing a new 10-year plan to enhance the city’s cycling network. This plan will add new routes and improve existing routes, all with the goal of making Toronto more connected and safer for cyclists while easing congestion.

The plan is in its second phase of public consultations. You can participate by offering your feedback on the draft cycle network map!

You can also get involved in the new 10-year plan by recording your cycling trips in the Toronto Cycling App, a free smartphone app for Android and iPhone.