The Cheat Sheet: July 7 & 8 City Council

Cheat Sheet (July 2014)

Monday’s City Council is actually a Special Meeting, and for once it’s not a transit debate that we’ll all walk out of hating everyone and everything. This time, Council will appoint fill-in councillors for Wards 5 and 20, vacant after councillors Milczyn and Vaughan levelled up to MPP and MP, respectively. You might see some familiar names on the list of candidates for Ward 5 and Ward 20. They include former Ford staffer Nico Fidani, cinephile urban legend Reg Hartt, and, uh, me. Yep. After saying on Keenan’s show that you couldn’t pay me to be Ward 20 councillor, I went and signed up, mostly as a joke…but upon consideration, I guess I know this beat pretty well.

The July City Council meeting proper starts Tuesday. (You’ll have gotten a preview of several of these items if you followed my Executive Committee livetweeting.) Here’s the full agenda and the livestream. My picks for items to watch are after the jump!

Ethics, Schmethics

A Part of Our Heritage

  • After years in limbo, the Sam the Record Man sign is finding a permanent temporary home atop the Toronto Public Health building near Yonge-Dundas Square. There’s also references to a possible “Toronto Music City” facility in the area. I suggest kicking out the Hard Rock Cafe.

  • The “Maple Leaf Forever” tree, felled in last July’s storm, will live on. Its wood is being turned into City Council gavels and a new Speaker’s podium; a canoe paddle for Evergreen Brickworks; walking sticks that Jane’s Walk will give away as awards; a guitar (with the help of Blue Rodeo); paper for official city declarations; and more. Here’s the full list.

  • Guess what’s coming to Fort York next year? The Magna Carta.. Yes, that Magna Carta. This is coming before City Council because, unsurprisingly, the 800-year-old document that laid the foundation for Western constitutional law costs a lot to insure.

Public Realm

  • The City’s finally getting around to milking the cash cow that is construction hoardings. Ads on construction hoarding would incur a monthly fee, with proceeds going into a reserve fund for arts programs. And 50% of construction hoarding on public rights-of-way would have to be used for community art projects — not shitty condo concept art.

  • One of the ideas put forward years ago in Dave Meslin’s “Fourth Wall” exhibit is slowly becoming reality. Cllr Matlow has a motion to revamp Toronto’s dry, boring development proposal signs into something eye-catching and easy to understand.

  • Those big, bright electronic signs along the Gardiner near the Ex aren’t so popular now that people are actually living in Liberty Village. City staff are recommending shrinking the area they’re allowed in.

  • edit: Thanks to Dave Meslin for passing this along! Metrolinx and Allvision are trying to put up four giant double-sided LED billboards next to the 401. It has to be approved by Council because the signs “are approximately four to six times larger than and twice as tall” as the Municipal Code allows — to say nothing of provincial highway regulations. Staff recommended denying all the applications; the Planning & Growth Committee was like “screw that, full steam ahead!” Anyway — read more at Scenic Toronto.

  • Not all of Toronto’s public space is actually owned by the City. Sometimes parts of developer-owned land can be designated public space via, e. g., Section 37 agreements. This is known as POPS, or Privately Owned Publicly Accessible Space. However, not many people know about this, so City Planning has been designing POPS signs that developers will be required to post. I have several quibbles: the sign is pretty but not terribly striking or readable; and THE FUCKING QR CODE. No one fucking uses QR codes. No one. Just put a fucking URL on: “toronto.ca/pops” or something. IS THAT SO HARD.

Urban Planning

  • Hoo boy. Here’s a motion that would introduce what’s called a development permit system in Toronto. It’s kind of an alternative way to do zoning that (among many other things) pre-empts OMB appeals and gives more power to city planners, which is both good and bad, really. The community is meant to get a lot of say in creating a development permit by-law for their area, at the cost of being able to appeal or make exceptions for individual developments as they come up. See Dylan Reid’s article for a thorough explanation of how a DPS works and the pros and cons of implementing it here. And much thanks to Andrew Jeanes for walking me through the basics.

  • And here’s another proposal that would sidestep the OMB: a Local Appeal Body (LAB). Right now, if you want to do something on a property just slightly beyond what the applicable zoning by-laws allow (a “minor variance”), you need to apply to the Committee of Adjustment. If they reject your application, your only option is to appeal to the OMB. This motion would create an independent body at the municipal level to hear appeals.

  • As part of the Five Year Review of the Official Plan, City Planning has drafted some new policies. The guidelines for tower renewal now actively encourage opening small shops, offices, etc., on the ground levels of high rises; building second homes in backyards and laneway garages has been explicitly nixed. Check out the rest here.

  • The bar culture on St. Clair West is becoming a problem, generating complaints of public drunkenness, excessive noise, and drug dealing. The local councillor, Palacio, is asking for a crackdown on problem establishments.

  • Speaking of the problems generated by a high concentration of bars, the Ontario Hotel & Motel Restaurant Association is offering to withdraw their OMB appeal provided that the concentration limit gets removed from the Queen St. W. restaurant bylaw.

  • Remember when RioCan proposed a giant Walmart on Bathurst? In response to resident outcry, the local councillor, Adam Vaughan, stalled for time by passing an Interim Control By-law that halted development so City staff could carry out a planning study saying “no giant Walmarts”. The Interim Control By-law giveth and the Interim Control By-law taketh away.

Fire and Ice

Poverty

  • As part of the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, City staff have produced a report about the challenges that new Torontonians face in the labour market and how the City is trying to meet their needs. Along with youth, newcomers’ unemployment rate can be up to twice the Toronto average.

  • Cornerstone Place Shelter, a 50-bed men’s shelter on St. Clair West, is getting the boot — a developer bought up the property. City Council has to approve the move to a new location near Oakwood and Vaughan. Ideally the transition will go smoothly and there will be as little in-between time as possible, but if the backup spot falls through the shelter staff will have to be laid off and the residents relocated elsewhere in the shelter system.

  • Last year’s Street Needs Assessment revealed that about 20% of Toronto’s homeless youth are queer — twice the overall average. The Community Development & Recreation Committee wants City staff to look into various ways to accommodate queer youth in the shelter system, including the possibility of a new, dedicated shelter. Parents, if you could stop being total fucking assholes by rejecting your own kids when they come out, that would be great.

  • Towards a slightly less excruciating social housing waitlist. Staff are suggesting an interface more like viewit.ca and less like, uh, this.

  • This also falls into the next category, but anyway: the City inches closer to cutting low-income people a break on transit fares.

Getting Around

Miscellaneous


Christ, this was a long agenda. Just think, if they appoint me as councillor I’ll get to sit through the whole thing.

5 thoughts on “The Cheat Sheet: July 7 & 8 City Council”

  1. FTFY: “The problem councillor, Palacio, is asking for a crackdown on local establishments.”

    I was going to tweet this page to my local councillor to get you a vote for 20 but… er… it’s Fragedakis.

  2. Wow, what a great and pithy summary of items!

    Couple of small (actually, pretty important) clarifications in re the Development Permit System.

    First, the only OMB appeals it pre-empts are 3rd party (e.g., resident or City) appeals of DPS permit application decisions. That’s right: developers can appeal decisions, residents and other interested 3rd parties can’t. Keesmaat has claimed that after adoption of a DPS by-law, then developers can’t appeal to amend the by-law on a site-specific basis—this is supposed to be the big advantage for the community of going with the DPS instead of the area-planning policies we already have. But it turns out that’s “fundamentally wrong”, as one one top planning lawyer put it: the Planning Act will permit site-specific amendments of a DPS by-law. What Toronto’s DPS policies do is make it somewhat harder to apply/appeal for a site-specific amendment, but not that much harder than what applicants have to do now to get an exception to any area-based Official Plan Policy (e.g., a Secondary Plan).

    Dylan Reid’s article is excellent, but was written before three top planning lawyers pulled the rug under the “no site-specific appeals” claim.

    Second, in re the community “getting a lot of say” in how the by-law turns out. That’s a big promissory note that is subject to two risky junctures: first, what the community wants and what Planning proposes may be different (this sort of gap has led to huge unrest in Vancouver with their version of the DPS); second and more importantly, developers can appeal to change the parameters of the proposed DPS by-law, and if the OMB rules in their favor, then the day after the decision, existing zoning is repealed and the new DPS standards are now “as-of-right” and unappealable.

    So there’s large risk associated with the DPS, and the stated primary advantage has fallen through. Hence it is that CORRA, FoNTRA, and numerous other planning, legal, business, and other associations are calling for the DPS policies to be sent back to Planning and Growth for further consideration.

  3. With respect to the Sam’s sign, if you read the report (that the proposed amendments are acting on) the language is a little cagey about whether the sign installation is indeed permanent or not.

    e.g. “Any requirements to keep the Sign at the site post-redevelopment would lower the valuation the City would receive in any redevelopment scenario.”

    and “J) Site redevelopment: City to endeavor to have future developer re-install the sign and take over the sign obligations of Ryerson, failing which Ryerson to remove the sign

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