When I launched this blog site, I invited you to Own Your City. It was a request for your presence and participation, in taking ownership over the city that you call home. I identified the existing mechanisms to do this – public meetings, open houses, advisory groups – and the need to figure out new and additional ways to engage.
Earlier this year as part of the development of the City Planning Division’s new Strategic Plan, I initiated a series of “Quick Hits” and polled my staff to see if anyone was willing to take them on.
Maybe I should have called it Own Your Division. Regardless, that’s exactly what happened.
Staff came forward and took ownership over a series of initiatives that were designed to improve how we serve Torontonians. These Quick Hits were actions we could undertake immediately – with existing resources – to respond to a real need within our Division, or in the City.
I wrote earlier about Planners in Public Spaces, which was also a Quick Hit, but today I would like to let you in one of our other important, although more internal, Quick Hits: our Technological Advancement Working Group. continue reading
A few days ago I tweeted about the astonishing number of new mid-rise buildings in the pipeline, knowing that this building type has the potential to play a vital role in transforming our future, and knowing that there is a perception that we are primarily building tall towers. Granted, Toronto has many tall towers under construction, but we are also beginning to fill out our Avenues with mid-rise – in just the way our policy framework had anticipated. Precisely because mid-rise buildings are able to integrate into streetscapes, capitalizing on both existing amenities (proximity to schools, parks and transit) and infrastructure in a gentle way, it’s possible to underestimate their impact on shaping the form of the city. As a result, mid-rise buildings are a desirable way to accommodate growth, diversify our housing stock, and “complete” existing communities.
Yesterday, the City Planning Division launched Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto, a new blog dedicated to helping Torontonians learn more about the Heritage Conservation District (HCD) studies and plans happening throughout the city. On the blog you’ll be able to find detailed background information, study area boundary maps, read community consultation presentations and use feedback forms on each HCD study/plan. The blog also has historic photo galleries and a page dedicated to answering frequently asked questions. This is a really exciting initiative that creates a meaningful way for us to share our work with the public, while also creating a vehicle through which we can collect feedback that will in turn shape our work. Below is the text of my opening remarks that were posted on the blog, entitled “Why Do HCDs Matter?”
Over the past six months, we in City Planning have been working diligently away on a Divisional Strategic Plan – our first ever! This document is rooted in the Vision of the Official Plan, and clarifies how we will go about our day-to-day work implementing that Vision. If you’re not familiar with the City of Toronto’s Official Plan, you can find it here. The document positions us to strategically employ, and make better use of, our existing resources to better facilitate city building. It references the Official Plan again and again, since this is approved Council policy, and our most important city planning tool. The Strategic Plan is about how we get the job done.
In anticipation of my launch with the Division on Monday, I thought I would share a sneak peak of my opening comments: continue reading
The Chief Planner Roundtable is a public forum for Torontonians to discuss key city-building challenges. Civic leaders and industry professionals meet to review challenges and opportunities, and to identify the various paths towards resolution of the issues at hand. Residents and members of the public are encouraged to participate by attending the sessions in person or watching them live-streamed on the internet, and by submitting comments and questions by Twitter or comment card.
The first roundtable series was held in the Spring 2013. One of the conclusions stemming from this series was that the suburbs warranted much greater discussion and examination. For this reason, the entire fall roundtable series is focusing on the suburbs. The first of these, “The Shape of the Suburbs” being held on September 30, is an examination of the physical form of the suburbs. The second (October 28) will focus on social and employment issues, and the third (November 25) will focus on mobility.
These Awards present an opportunity every other year to pause, take stock and recognize the work we are collectively doing to create a great city.
The city, after all, is expressed and emerges in the places and spaces that we experience and share in common. The way we design these places has the potential to enhance our connectedness to each other, to both the past and the future, and to the environments that sustain us. continue reading
A few months ago I stumbled upon a tweet from an Australian design firm extolling the virtues of an initiative they call “Holding Public Office.” In essence, once a month, they find a fabulous public space and take the people and the equipment of their firm into the light of day for inspiration, to expose the world to their design process, and to enliven the work they do every day. They shape and define the public realm by connecting with the people and the places that matter to their professional practice. I was inspired by this interactive way to plan a city by engaging people directly as they go about their daily activities. continue reading
It would not be unfair to characterize the growth we are experiencing as “astronomical,” even in light of the current, apparent, slow down. Some believe we are experiencing a seismic shift; the very fabric of the city is being redefined with every newly approved application, and it’s tempting to question whether the “centre will hold.” I was at a conference recently in the American Midwest where Toronto was identified as “the fastest growing city in the world,” and the comment rang in my ears. What does this mean? continue reading
It’s time for a shout out to the resourcefulness of my amazing division of city planners. I would not have lasted one week if it wasn’t for their passion, commitment and professionalism. They work on the edge of the most pressing issues facing urban planners the world over – exceptional growth and the complexity of an evolving urban form, combined with social and environmental pressures that are paramount in every decision, every day. continue reading
They said I would be among friends. That’s partly why I went.
Just a few weeks into my post as Chief I met with a series of residents associations during their AGM’s , who were keen to hear my vision for the city. I talked about the magnitude of the challenges we face, the volume of work we do, and the need for the planning division to re-emerge as a leading voice on planning matters. I was questioned about staff shortages, the role of the OMB, navigating the politics of City Hall, managing growth, and protecting employment uses.
All the kind of conversations you would expect, really. continue reading