I hope this finds you well and that you had a great summer!
As I shared with you in my most recent update, I will be able to continue sending you regular updates after the municipal election on October 27th.
However, I do continue to keep my website, Twitter and Facebook pages very current with news and events from our Ward 22 neighbourhoods.
I've included information about a few items below that were considered at this term's final City Council meeting (held between August 25-28th) that may be of interest to you and your family.
Melissa, Molly and I hope to see you out in our community soon.
Motion Approved for a Potential Public Park at the Glebe Manor Bowling Club
As many of you are aware, a developer is in the process of purchasing the Glebe Manor Lawn Bowling Club property (196 Manor Road East) from the Club’s Board with the intent to build townhouses on the site.
This green space is very important to our community. In fact, we have a dearth of green space in our growing Midtown neighbourhoods. That's why I've been proactively working closely with local residents to acquire this property as a public park since this issue came to my attention several months ago.
Earlier this year, I successfully moved a motion at Council directing Real Estate Services staff to evaluate the fair market value of the property at 196 Manor Road East, and directing Parkland Acquisitions staff to begin negotiations with the current owner(s) for the purpose of purchase by the City and report back to Council's Executive Committee in August. I'm happy to report that both the Executive Committee and Council supported recommendations for the City to purchase the site if there is a willing seller. I also saw many of you at a public information meeting I held at Hodgson Sr PS on June 18.
The City has still not received any indication from the owner that they are willing to sell the property with a purpose to preserve the green space. In fact, they seem intent to move forward with a townhouse development, which I am strongly opposed to. While Council supported my initiative to make the funds available to purchase the lawn bowling club, Staff have not had a willing seller to negotiate with.
I have been working with a group of the lawn bowling club shareholders, who are mounting an opposition to the current Board's decision to sell the property to a developer. They need your support and assistance. For more information on their efforts to keep this space green, and how you can help, please click here.
The community and I are dedicated to taking every legal means to preserve this green space in perpetuity. I will continue to update you every step of the way.
Making the Union-Pearson Express Fare More Affordable, Competitive and Fair
Metrolinx's Union-Pearson Express line is a welcome addition to Toronto's transit network. For too long, our city has been one of the few world centres without rapid transit to its International Airport.
While I'm certainly pleased that this critical infrastructure appears to be on budget and will be ready to open for the Pan Am Games next year, I moved a motion at Council expressing some major concerns with emerging cost details that limit the accessibility of this line.
While the passenger fare has yet to be confirmed, media reports have estimated that the new line could cost riders upwards of $30 per trip. This cost may, or may not, have an effect on business or international travelers but it would barely be competitive with taxis or limousines for residents. Common sense would dictate that if a resident living anywhere other than downtown (within close proximity to Union Station) can be picked up from their house and taken to the airport for $50-60, they may opt to spend the extra money to avoid the additional time as the cost differential is not that substantial.
Further, a couple or a family might actually find it more expensive to take the Union Pearson Express.
Another troubling consumer cost detail associated with the Union-Pearson Express is the $1.85 fee passengers are being charged for not parking at the airport. The City of Toronto and other municipal governments in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area are actively encouraging residents to use public transit. This fee would penalize air travelers for making a choice that helps fight congestion.
New Playground for Eglinton Public School
As students and parents are all too familiar, the playground at Eglinton PS is in serious need of improvement and has been for many years. Over two years ago, I secured developers' fees for school upgrades through a nearby development. After extensive consultation with the school community, Trustee Laskin submitted a very exciting plan for a revitalized outdoor area, including:
- New landscaping
- Funnel ball game
- Tetherball game
- Bicycle racks
- New trees and planters
- New sandbox
- Custom water wall
- Additions to existing play equipment
- Stone seating wall
- Chess tables
- Custom puppet show booth
My motion, supported by Council, included a Community Access Agreement (which will have to be signed by the TDSB) securing access for the wider community to the enhanced play area during evenings and weekends.
Improving the Mount Pleasant Road Streetscape and Supporting Small Business
With the Mount Pleasant Crosstown station set to open at the intersection of Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant in 2020, it is imperative that the local BIA start developing a unified streetscape design as soon as possible.
That's why I moved a motion to provide the Mount Pleasant BIA with $30,000, fully funded by Section 37 community benefits, to design a Streetscape Masterplan that will start the process of adding new trees, street furniture and other enhancements in the coming years.
This plan will help improve the walkability and attractiveness of the street which will, in turn, help attract new businesses to the neighbourhood.
The new plan will be developed in consultation with the South Eglinton Residents' and Ratepayers' Association, the Davisville Village community and myself. Public meeting notices will be posted in early 2015.
Improving the Deer Park Streetscape at Yonge & St. Clair
As local residents know all too well, the public realm in the Yonge and St. Clair area is in great need of improvement. The sidewalks are cracked and the very few existing trees are in poor health, sitting in out-of-date planters that are used as a receptacle for cigarette butts and garbage.
To help improve the neighbourhood, I have directed developers' fees toward Section 37 streetscape improvements in the area. The motion allocates $200,000 for planting trees in new, City-standard planters and other street enhancements.
Beautifying Oriole Parkway
At present, the Oriole Parkway median is a mostly concrete strip separating the north and southbound lanes. I believe it has the potential to be a remarkable street with a more residential character.
My recent motion directs $315,000, entirely paid for through developers' fees, for the installation of planters for approximately 60 trees, new curbs, top soil and sod on the median between Eglinton Avenue and Imperial Street. In addition, the funds will be used to beautify the eastern boulevard of Oriole Parkway between Kilbarry Road and Lonsdale Road.
There will be a notice sent to Oriole Parkway residents in the new year to discuss what specific improvements should be made. The intention of this initiative is to create a more attractive public realm on Oriole Parkway for the neighbourhood to enjoy, while also alerting drivers that they should control their speed in this residential area.
Taking Back Our Streets – Getting Developers out of Traffic Lanes
As many of you know all too well, traffic congestion is a significant problem for Toronto's motorists, public transit users and cyclists. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently noted that the Greater Toronto Area suffers from the longest work commute times in North America. Estimates have put the cost of congestion to our city's economy at $6 billion a year while negatively impacting on the quality of life of our residents.
Of course, the long-term solutions to this problem include building a more accessible, affordable, extensive and efficient public transportation system. But, in the meantime, we must take every opportunity to ease congestion.
The practice of allowing developers to block lanes of traffic for construction negatively impacts motorists, surface transit users, cyclists and pedestrians. This usage of our streets causes bottlenecks, backing up traffic several blocks on major arterial roads, and can lead to inconvenient and, in some cases, unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.
Toronto's streets must be used more efficiently.
To help address this issue, I successfully moved a motion at Council requesting Transportation Services staff to study the feasibility of eliminating the practice of allowing developers to occupy a lane of traffic for construction.
My motion also recognizes that the long-term goal of eliminating the practice of using lanes for construction may need some interim provisions to open traffic lanes for the public as quickly as possible. At present, there is little incentive for developers to keep their construction staging area on their own property, rather than impose on public space, since the applicant's fee is largely comprised of a modest up-front payment, followed by a very minimal monthly fee thereafter.
That's why I also requested City Staff to look at the feasibility of increasing the initial up-front fee for blocking a lane to encourage developers to look for alternate solutions that do not negatively impact residents, and the feasibility of escalating monthly fees for blocking a street lane to encourage developers to use that lane for the least amount of time possible.
Reducing the Cost of Paid-Duty Police Officers
As a member of the Council's Audit Committee, I set a process in motion to reduce the number of paid-duty police officers the City needs to hire at construction and work sites.
I, along with many residents, find it frustrating and wrong to see uniformed police officers standing by work sites while other budgets to important City services are being cut.
I am happy to report that my colleagues on Audit Committee and, subsequently, City Council, supported my motion requesting the province to follow Vancouver's lead by ensuring that lower-paid enforcement officials are monitoring construction sites. If permitted, this initiative will save the City of Toronto, businesses and community organizations millions of dollars while ensuring that the police are focused on what they're best at - serving and protecting us.
For more information, please read this article.
Along with many police priorities, I hear from Ward 22 residents every day, including from fellow parents, that traffic safety and more enforcement in our neighbourhoods should be an important place where police resources go.