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.

Here are some highlights of the work we have undertaken over the past 12 months:

1.  Launch of our Strategic Plan

Our new Strategic Plan, the result of extensive internal and external consultation, is our guide to advancing city building and achieving the Official Plan Vision. Implementation of this plan will occur over the next five years, but we have already kicked off our first initiatives!

2.  Planners in Public Spaces (PiPs)

At the end of the summer, we partnered with LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre and took to the streets of Toronto to engage residents through pop-up City Planning information booths. Through PiPs we were able to connect with 1,700 people, many of whom had never attended a traditional ‘town hall’ public consultation.

3.  Chief Planner Roundtables

The ongoing Chief Planner Roundtables brings together civic leaders and industry professionals to collectively discuss key issues facing Toronto. Rogers TV live streams the Chief Planner Roundtables online, facilitating  a very active twitter discussion taking place through the #CProundtable hashtag.

4.  Draft Official Plan Policies for Implementing a Development Permit System

In November we brought forward to the Planning and Growth Management Committee our recommendations for allowing the use of a DPS in Toronto. In essence, Development Permit System (DPS) is a planning tool that will enable us to move towards an area based approach to planning, as opposed to a site-by-site approach. We will soon be rolling out a public consultation campaign around DPS, but for those extra curious folks you can take a sneak peek at this presentation.

5.  A Comprehensive Zoning By-Law

By-law 569-2013 is the first comprehensive zoning bylaw for the City of Toronto, replacing the 43 general zoning bylaws of the former municipalities. It is the City’s key implementing tool in shaping an attractive, functional, safe, universally accessible and environmentally sound Toronto. The interactive maps make zoning information accessible 24/7, and provide an avenue for people to quickly find zoning information about their property online.

6.  Tall Building Guidelines

Our Downtown Tall Buildings Vision and Supplementary Design Guidelines (adopted by City Council July 2012) were consolidated and adopted alongside our new city-wide Tall Building Design Guidelines in May 2013, establishing a unified set of design guidelines for evaluating tall building development applications across the City. A background study establishing the Downtown context for evaluating tall buildings, prepared in advance of the final set of guidelines noted above, by Urban Strategies Inc. and Hariri Pontarini Architects (and in collaboration with City Planning), were the recipients of the prestigious 2013 OPPI Excellence in Planning Awards under the category of Research / New Directions.

7.  Official Plan Heritage Policies

Another award winning policy undertaken by the City Planning Division this year was our new Official Plan Heritage Policies. The Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals recognized the heritage policies for their consideration of cultural landscapes and view corridors, and commended the extensive public consultation process.

8.  Feeling Congested?

As part of the review of the Official Plan’s transportation policies, the Feeling Congested? campaign used a consultative approach that pioneered new public engagement techniques. A website, interactive survey, whiteboard video, social media campaign, public forums, and pop-up “intercepts” in subway stations were among a few of the methods used to engage new audiences in substantive conversations around the future of transportation in Toronto.

9.  Eglinton Connects

In parallel with Metrolinx’ development of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown line, Eglinton Connects is a comprehensive planning study along the length of the rapid-transit corridor. At 19 kilometres, Eglinton Connects might be the longest single planning project undertaken in Toronto; the team brought a 40 metre long “mega map” to open houses!

10. Employment Lands Policies, Designations, and Conversion Requests

Last, but certainly not least, the City Planning Division brought forward to Council its draft Official Plan policies and designations for employment areas, as well as recommendations on 125 conversion requests. Our Official Plan Vision states that Toronto is a city of opportunity and diversity, where jobs are “available to people with a range of education and abilities that creates and sustains well-paid, stable, safe, and fulfilling employment opportunities for all Torontonians”. Ensuring that we protect a portion of our limited land base for employment uses is critical to maintaining the long term sustainability of our city.

I am exceptionally proud of my team. They have shown again and again their love for this city, their willingness to try new things, and a commitment to continuous improvement. The achievements of this past year have grown from new collaborations both within city hall and with stakeholders across this city.  2014 looms large – there is so much work to do, from furthering the DPS to drafting and implementation a new framework for community consultations to continuing to implement our Strategic Plan.

Thank you to everyone who made this past year a success – we hope you will continue to work alongside us in 2014.