Canada’s Cities are a Model for the World

This article appeared as an OpEd in the Ottawa Citizen entitled City-building as a Canadian export on May 25, 2014.

More than half the global population lives in cities and this number climbs by 60 million people a year. It may seem that as we become an urban world, the places we live, work and play will inevitably become beacons of innovation, prosperity, sustainability, and civility. Cities, after all, represent progress. The urbanization of our world is a sign of our evolution as a species.

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A New Zone for the City

We’ve been focusing, in the City Planning Division, on becoming more proactive and collaborative in the work that we do.

This is apparent in a whole variety of initiatives that we have underway, from our Comprehensive to the Core study, which is a two-year project looking at both hard and soft downtown infrastructure, to our recently approved plan for 19 km of light rail on Eglinton, which includes a Built Form Framework, a streetscaping plan, and a “greening” strategy.   continue reading

By densifying Eglinton, we can fight congestion

A rendering of how Eglinton Ave. will look after the light-rail, which is currently under construction, is finished.

A rendering of how Eglinton Ave. will look after the light-rail, which is currently under construction, is finished.

It’s a well-known fact that it’s not possible to relieve traffic congestion by building more roads in a rapidly densifying city. Research has shown that when we add capacity to our road network, within a very short period of time additional commuters are induced to drive, leading to impassable congestion.

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City Planning 2013 Annual Report

I’m excited to release City Planning’s first ever Annual Report. This document provides a snapshot of our accomplishments in 2013 and lays out a framework for our priorities in the year ahead. My opening remarks can be found below and the full document can be viewed by clicking on the report cover image at the bottom of this article.

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City Planning Division’s Top 10 of 2013

2013 was a year of serious heavy lifting for City Planning. Amidst everything, we put our noses to the grindstone and just kept doing the important work that we were hired to do. At times it has been challenging, but we continue to draw inspiration from the people of this city who are passionate about city building, who believe that together we can make the city a better place, for all.

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City Planning’s Technological Advancement Working Group

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

Mid-Rise Rising: 58 Approved Applications and Counting

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.

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Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto Blog

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?”

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Our New Strategic Plan

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 Shape of the Suburbs: A New Series of Chief Planner Roundtables Launching September 30th!

roundtable

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.

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