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The Week at Toronto City Hall #4
City Council debates sweeping zoning changes, road safety, the winter shelter plan, and trees.
This week at City Hall, Council deals with long-awaited and controversial zoning changes, road safety measures, and, most important of all, tree removal permits. Despite my best efforts, there is simply too much to fit in one email, so make sure to click through to the web version for the whole thing.
Council preview: Inclusionary zoning, road safety, and more
At long last, Toronto has its chance to implement inclusionary zoning—policy that requires new residential developments over a certain size to set aside a percentage of space for affordable housing. However, it’s by no means a magic bullet. The provincial government stipulates that it can only apply in small areas around major transit stations. On top of that, the City’s plan creates three zones with different “set-aside” rates that will be gradually phased in; it will take until 2030 to reach the top rates of 8-22%. While the development industry has been lobbying against it, housing advocates insist the policy doesn’t go far enough. For example, these requirements rule out some quickly gentrifying neighbourhoods like Little Jamaica. For a more detailed rundown, see Matt’s explanation in City Hall Watcher #146.
Shelter plans: this winter and beyond
The 2022 Shelter Infrastructure Plan is dense but worth a read. While SSHA have extended emergency hotel leases until spring to accommodate a higher capacity for winter, they do plan on phasing them out. However, it’s not clear that there will be any less need for shelter space. From the full report [PDF]:
Based on shelter system flow data, we know that over the past 12 months, on average close to 200 people experiencing chronic homelessness are housed each month. At the same time, each month, just over 300 people pass the threshold to become chronically homeless in the shelter system.
Appendix 1 is particularly interesting, as it has a detailed breakdown of shelter space being added or developed over the next few years. From 2022–2024, the forecast is 284 new beds and 4 new shelters.1 You do the math.
So in 2013, Toronto’s Official Plan designated certain zones as “Employment Areas”, reserved for industrial uses like manufacturing, warehouses, office parks, etc. While “Hogtown” days are long gone, according to the City these areas still employ a substantial number of people—about 25% of all jobs and 87% of manufacturing jobs.
However, Toronto’s various pre-existing zoning by-laws permitted lots of other businesses and facilities in these areas—schools, daycares, places of worship, clubs, arenas, and so on. Now that the City is updating its by-laws to match the Official Plan, these “sensitive uses” will no longer be allowed. And, well…
Seriously, just take a browse through the many, many letters and emails under “Communications” here. Expect lots of hairsplitting, carving-out of exceptions, and requests for reports as Council tries to find a solution that will infuriate their constituents as little as possible.
MM37.1: After an elderly couple was killed in a multi-vehicle car crash on Parkside Drive, a major roadway on the east edge of High Park, Councillor Gord Perks is calling for expedited safety measures like automated speed cameras, speed limit reduction, and traffic signals.
MM37.15: Councillor Paula Fletcher is calling for more safety measures to be expedited on her neighbouring ward’s stretch of O’Connor, including a reduced speed limit and red light cameras.
MM37.18: She’s also calling for increasing the number of automated speed cameras from 2 to 5 per ward.
MM37.12: Councillor Jennifer McKelvie is calling for faster Vision Zero implementation.
CC37.7: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, next to luxury flats (with, presumably, at-grade boutiques and swinging hot spots). The condo developers proposed to swap some of their land for part of the Green P lot, and City Council voted to turn the City-owned part into a park. The Toronto Parking Authority duly sold off part of the land to the developers—but it seems what they agreed upon was not exactly what the City had in mind. Now, lawyers are involved. I guess you really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. (See also PA27.11.)
MM37.4: Councillor Mike Colle has an urgent plea for City staff to work with Toronto Public Health and the police to address a “growing opioid/fentanyl crisis” in the Eglinton West area. (Opioid overdose deaths have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic.)
MM37.19: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wants a temporary provincial moratorium on cannabis licenses to prevent pot stores from taking over the city—which, you’ve gotta admit, seems like a very real possibility.
MM37.23: Also, diaper changing stations in City-owned public building washrooms.
CC37.8: Can the City do anything about anti-vaccination protests, like “safe zones” around clinics and hospitals? That’s confidential, but rest assured it’s being discussed.
PH27.1: The last undeveloped lot in CityPlace will become a City-owned rental building, with one-third to one-half of the units designated as affordable.
Tree Removal Application of the Month
This month’s selection: this black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) in the Beaches. Oh boy did I go down a rabbit hole with this one, thanks to a letter from the homeowners’ lawyer alleging that black walnut trees are dangerously toxic. The trees are so widely disliked that in 2017 Urban Forestry produced a report addressing it [PDF] (they concluded there was no justification for removing them). In fact, according to this 2019 Washington State University Extension publication, one of the most widely circulated claims about black walnuts—that a chemical they produce, juglone, kills off nearby plants—seems to be unfounded.
As for toxicity for humans and pets: eating moldy walnuts can give dogs (and humans) tremors, but it’s the mold, not the walnuts—moldy rice, compost, and garbage can produce the same symptoms. Eating non-moldy black walnut wood or nuts can make dogs sick, but not seriously so [Sci-Hub]. Homeowners will probably have to learn to love this hardy, widespread native tree species.
The Week at Toronto City Hall:
The TPA is also getting some new enterprise resource planning software, which is great, because its current system is “a custom-built application initially developed and implemented in the mid-1980s” that “utilizes a text based command line user interface”. I had to go have a lie down after I read this.
🎭 The TO Live Audit Committee gets a few confidential updates on cybersecurity and financial matters.
TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY: 🏟 Toronto City Council.
THURSDAY: 🏶 Remembrance Day, so no meetings.
THE WEEK AFTER NEXT: The following week’s meetings include all the Committees of Adjustment; the Accessibility, Aboriginal Affairs, and Confronting Anti-Black Racism Advisory Committees; and the Dangerous Dog Review Tribunal.
Nev’s Bug Report: As winter draws near, we’re more likely to encounter bugs in our houses than outdoors. This week’s bug is the cosmopolitan Anthrenus verbasci, the varied carpet beetle—specifically, its fuzzy, wormlike larval form. In nature, adult beetles feed on pollen, but the larvae are decomposers that eat dead animals. Indoors, they eat animal-derived stuff like skin flakes, bits of food, hair, leather, wool, and silk. It’s normal to find a few in your house, and regular vacuuming and laundry is enough to keep their numbers down. However, if you’re seeing a ton of them, they may have found a secret feast somewhere.
It’s been such a pleasure to write for you during this hectic time of year at City Hall. A new edition of City Hall Watcher awaits you on the other side of the weekend, so don’t forget to like and subscribe! There’s no like button—I just want you to like it inside your heart. You should subscribe for real, though.
Rephrased to clarify that these are new beds being added and new shelters being opened, not the total system capacity. Thanks to reader M. for pointing it out!