Laneways not the key in draft policies for permits; responding to Wynne, mayor offers “truth serum”; passionate politics in chambers; We asked Gregg Lintern what song best describes how he feels being appointed to the city’s chief planner, and why?

7:21 p.m., March 29, 2018. An information board at Thursday night’s City of Toronto consultation meeting on laneway suites. A report on new building laneway building policies is expected before the May Toronto and East York Community Council meeting.
7:21 p.m., March 29, 2018. An information board at Thursday night’s City of Toronto consultation meeting on laneway suites. A report on new building laneway building policies is expected before the May Toronto and East York Community Council meeting.

 

Weekend Newsbrief: Mar. 31, 2018

What happened at Toronto City Hall this week

Laneways not the key element in draft policies for laneway house permits presented to the public. City of Toronto planning staff gave a presentation on new policies on criteria requirements to permit laneway housing. Senior planner Graig Uens presented to approximately 200 members of the public at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Thursday night. The details in the draft policy reveal that “laneway suites” may not be the most transparent title for the new proposed permit, owing to the fact that they must be within 45 metres of a main street (approx. 150 feet) so emergency services will be able to access the suite. This means that only laneways that t-bone a main street would be considered, and only within a short distance. However, properties with a side yard (space between the house and a neighbouring house) that is at least a metre wide will be eligible for a laneway housing permit if the policy is passed by council (the one-metre side yard can be used for access by emergency services). See what members of the public had to say at the public consultation event:

Responding to Kathleen Wynne’s budget promises for Toronto this week, mayor offers “truth serum.” Mayor John Tory spoke with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, after the provincial Liberal party released their budget platform that included additional funding for the TTC and lower fare for GO transit riders within Toronto. “I believe this is in overall terms a good budget for the City of Toronto.” Asked by one reporter how the mayor would describe his pants, a reference to a comments Tory made last year on a proposal for the city to collect road tolls (“It is time that… I stop being treated as a little boy in short pants saying please, could you help me out with something that I thought was in the City of Toronto Act that I could do, and to be told, ‘No I’m terribly sorry.’ ”), Tory laughed and then responded: “In all seriousness, I think we’re making progress, and I think that chapter may have been an important part quite frankly… [The provincial government] understands Toronto is the economic engine of the province… I’ve been around politics for a while, anything you do for Toronto doesn’t get you a lot of credit anywhere else – in fact, it gets you the opposite, sometimes. I think by having the funding for transit, based on ridership, which is a clear and honest and sensible recognition of [millions of riders a year], they are putting the funding where it’s most needed. And you’d expect me to say that as the mayor of Toronto, but I think if anyone else was given truth serum that may differ with that, they would acknowledge this is where the most desperate need is… Things are different here. Problems exist on a much bigger scale.”

COUNCIL DEBATES: YONGE STREET CHANGES

Council hits pause on decision to put bike lanes on northern stretch of Yonge. Toronto council voted to defer the decision to reduce traffic lanes for bike lanes on the northern stretch of Yonge Street from just south of Sheppard Avenue to north of Finch Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, after spending most of the day debating an ongoing study on the issue. The reason for the deferral was to permit the TTC board to “consider the long-term considerations for surface level buses as well as the overall City/York Region transit planning and report directly to City Council.” There was no date attached to the motion for when the issue will come back to council.

Documents reveal consultant cost for the environmental assessment study for Yonge Street doubled to over $2 million during the process. Bid documents and purchase-order amendments surrounding the controversial REimagining Yonge Street study reveal that the cost of hiring consultants more than doubled from the initial procurement – exceeding $2 million for the report that has now finally come to council. Back in February 2016 when the contract was awarded, the cost of the bid for the environment assessment for the north stretch of Yonge between Sheppard and Finch was $906,445.15 with a completion date of Nov.15, 2016. However, no report on what was found went to committee or council. Instead, a request in May of 2017 from the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee extended the purchase order and expanded the scope of the study, raising the cost to $2,070,438. The options provided in a report will cost between $29 million and $71 million. (Read the story)

Passionate politics in council chambers. This week, city councillors were fired up as they debated changes to roads along the northern stretch of Yonge Street. “As a child of Regent Park and a child of poverty, I’m keenly aware that fixing the problems facing our city, requires good will and hard work by all,” Councillor Lucy Troisi said. “We talk about being congested in this city. When you have a drain that’s stopped up and jammed, what do you do? Do you reach for Drano or do you reach for lard to make it worse,” Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said. “When you talk about safety, we’re not looking for that magic, balanced, mushy place in the middle, as even I’ve been criticized for before. That’s not going to save lives. Let’s show leadership, let’s show courage, even yes, in an election year,” Councillor Josh Matlow said. In the end, council, including the mayor, voted to defer the item. (Read the story)

3:43 p.m., March 27, 2018. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong illustrates the decision council has to make for Yonge Street using images of Drano and lard.
3:43 p.m., March 27, 2018. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong illustrates the decision council has to make for Yonge Street using images of Drano and lard.

Hall monitor: seen and heard in council chambers by Glenn De Baeremaeker on cryptocurrency, chickens, and the City of Toronto.

On Monday night, city council voted against directing staff resources to research a report on the possibility of allowing people to use cryptocurrency as a form of payment for things like property tax. The request also included a direction for staff to consider potential efficiencies for city divisions, and to provide the mayor’s executive committee with an analysis on the potential security risks and threats of using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker: “I guess I’m not an early adapter. At home I have a sack of grain. I have a couple of chickens – I know they’re illegal but I keep them for currency. I can get my head around maybe allowing taxpayers to pay their taxes using some sacks of grain and some chickens. I even have some pennies at home that really aren’t allowed to be around anymore, but I keep them at home and I can get my head around pennies. But when I saw this motion – I think it was Councillor [Norm] Kelly that moved it earlier – I have a staff member who is 20 years old and I asked her to explain it to me. She explained it very well and I had no idea what she was talking about, and I thought, maybe, when I want something dumbed down to the simplest level, I go to Councillor [John] Campbell. Councillor Campbell and I have been sitting here with our iPads, thinking of everything we can to dumb it down to its simplest level, and I don’t know…”

Councillor Campbell: “I don’t know if it’s a compliment or not.”

De Baeremaeker: “I’m sticking with my sack of grain and my chickens. If taxpayers want to find an alternative means of paying their taxes, I’ll take the chickens and the sack of grain over the bitcoin.”


Screen capture of the Twitter photo for Gregg Lintern, the city’s newly appointed chief planner (used with permission).
Screen capture of the Twitter photo for Gregg Lintern, the city’s newly appointed chief planner (used with permission).

 

Lintern takes a moment to talk favourite song.

Toronto’s interim chief planner Gregg Lintern was appointed to chief planner on Wednesday. Lintern first worked at the City of Etobicoke in 1984, and was the executive director of the City Planning division in 2012 and since September 2017. A press release from the City of Toronto says that Lintern’s first priorities as chief planner will include transit network expansion, affordable housing, improvements to the development review process, and implementing Ontario Municipal Board reform. We asked him, what song best describes how you feel about the appointment, and why?

He chose “After All” by Charlotte Day Wilson

The reasons: “I just love the rhythm – reminds me of moving around through the city, looking closely at places and seeing different people in different situations, wondering what’s going on in their lives. The lyrics likely have a deeper meaning – a metaphor for what lies beneath.”

If you haven’t heard the song, you can watch the video and listen here.

One line from the song, “home is dull,” could be about Toronto. The new chief planner will have a chance further enliven the city’s streets.

Here are the lyrics:

It’s running through your veins
Like the wind up harbour
Taking me

Oh, how I just need a little rest
Before this gets harder
Harder

Isn’t it funny how it goes?
The open-ended closed
Forcin’ you
To enter as you go

Take the wind
The wind up harbour
Take it in
Before this gets harder

And after all
You’re the one that I call
Home is dull
When the waves don’t spill
Now wash it all
All away, all away now

It’s running through your veins
Like the wind up harbor
Taking me

Oh, how I just need a little rest
Before this gets harder
Harder
Before this gets harder

And after all
You’re the one that I call
Home is dull
When the waves don’t spill now
Wash it all
All away, all away now


This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson