Last September, City Planning sent out 12,000 letters to random households across Toronto. Each letter contained a personal invitation to participate in an exciting experiment aimed at diversifying the voices that contribute to Toronto’s planning process, so that it is more reflective of the most multicultural city in the world. The experiment, now approaching its first anniversary, is called the Toronto Planning Review Panel, and it is an engagement success story that I’m proud to say is a first, not just for Toronto, but for the whole world.
Density is often touted – by myself included – as key to unlocking a more sustainable, liveable, cost efficient future. Getting density right is central to creating communities where it is possible to do a variety of everyday activities within walking distance from home – like visiting a health clinic, buying groceries, or getting your haircut. Walking has implications for our health, our sense of place, our connectedness to our communities, and our need to reduce our environmental footprint.
So all density is good, right? Not so fast. continue reading
After a rich and robust dialogue at ULI’s Fireside Chat with Mayor Tory last week that focused primarily on planning issues such as midrise development and embracing innovation in our city building, the Mayor was asked for a closing comment. Mayor Tory chose to shift the conversation significantly, by commenting on the importance of fairness. Acknowledging recent data released by the United Way that exposes the widening gap between the rich and the poor in Toronto, Mayor Tory exhorted everyone in the room to recognize the significance of the challenge before us, and the need to prioritize ensuring all Torontonians have the opportunity to thrive.
Broadening participation in our city building processes underpins creating an equitable city, too. In a recent poll undertaken by Ipsos Reid, we learned that of the thousands upon thousands who have participated in our city planning processes over the years, participants have been primarily white, over 55 and home owners. Anyone who knows a thing or two about Toronto knows that our city is mostly foreign born and non-white, and the fastest growing demographic in some parts of the city – like our downtown core, which is driving our condo boom – is under 35. In addition, nearly 40% of Torontonians are renters. continue reading
You might be familiar with the NXT City Prize, a project that is the brainchild of a very talented group of young people who run a consultancy firm called Distl. The NXT City Prize is aimed at youth under the age of 30 and asked them to re-imagine public space (any public space) in the City of Toronto for the chance to win up to $5,000 in prize money and $10,000 in seed money to implement their idea. The City of Toronto supported this project by providing the seed money as well as in-kind support, and I offered my guidance and led the adjudication team. continue reading
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
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.
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.
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?”