SROs, Airbnb, Cut Throughs & Traffic Lights – Ward 33 E-Blast November 23rd

I know it’s a little early for a year end wrap up, but I’ve been reviewing matters with my super Ward 33 Team and we’ve built up a shopping list of items to report back on. I’ll try to run through them quickly. If you’d like more detail, please call or email us.

School Resource Officers

This one made headlines this week when the Toronto District School Board ended their SRO program. What is never mentioned in the headlines, however, is part two of their recommendations: TDSB Trustees also voted to have staff continue to work in partnership with Toronto Police to maintain positive working relationships that will ensure a safe, welcoming and inclusive culture in every school. As always, Toronto Police will continue to respond to any incident that threatens the safety of students, staff, and school communities.

Still to come is the independent review that Police Chief Mark Saunders has commissioned on the School Resource Officer Program. It is important to remember that it has always been the intention of the Police Chief and the Toronto Police Services Board to examine whether or not there is a better way to make schools an integral part of our transformation to healthier, relationship-based community policing.

We expect Chief Saunders to report back in a couple of months time.

Street Cut Through Maintenance

Some faithful readers may recall a couple of years back, I hit the roof because my team and I were fed up. Each summer we were finding ourselves dealing with the regular failure of city staff to maintain each and every one of our dozens of little pathways that cut between two homes to schools, parks or just neighbouring streets.

I moved a motion in Council in which I called them “cut throughs” because that was what we called them when I was growing up in Don Mills. By the time you got to high school you knew practically every cut through between Finch and Eglinton, especially if you had a paper route. I’m older now, and so is the pavement in all of these little pathways. There is no inventory of them and there are no plans to ever repair, replace or re-fence them.

Staff responded with, “What is a cut through?” Now, finally, they are in the process of databasing each one into the City’s systems, which will mean better weeding and trimming going forward. My special thanks to Councillor Josh Matlow who has taken carriage of this issue and will continue the work to get the larger capital maintenance issues resolved through future committee work. Call or email my office if you live near a cut-through, and want us to make sure it gets some attention.

Here is the video that got the ball rolling on Cut Through maintenance back in 2015.

Airbnb & Other Short Term Rental News

There has been a lot of confusion about what is on the way to Council regarding the use of houses, apartments and condos for online hotel listing with companies like AirBnB. Confusion always reigns when we are debating the highly legalistic wording of a new enforcement bylaw. Let me put into layman’s terms what is proposed.

Any person who owns or rents a home in Toronto and lives in it may list all or part of their home on AirBnB and other sites, but they must register and pay a fee to the city. So you can go away for the summer, list your home and make some money.

If you own another home and do not live in it, we want you to help the city with its housing shortage by renting out to long-term tenants. With your permission, your tenant may list their home for some short-term rental as well. The two of you may even agree to share the profits but one of you must register that home with the City and pay the fee before listing it online.

The premise is straightforward. We have a shortage of housing at every income level in Toronto. We need every unit of housing to be someone’s home. We recognize, however, that listing your home may be how you are affording the high cost of living there. If you register it, you can list it up to 180 nights a year. That should cover the AirBnB plans of snow-birders who want to list while they are away, young teachers while they travel during summer, and everyone else.

If on the other hand, you are a speculator who wants to buy 10 condos and run weekend parties 52 weeks a year, thereby removing those units from Toronto’s housing supply, the condo owners who live next door have asked us to shut you down.

Lastly, Good News for Some Active Residents

Recently, Katherine and I held a meeting to discuss traffic issues surrounding the Crossroads Condominiums, with Traffic Staff and Division 33 Police in attendance. If you aren’t familiar, a resident described his Crossroads home that night in a way that was both warm and hilarious, “I love this place because it is so well connected, right where the 401 and the 404 meet. The only drawback is it is right where the 401 and the 404 meet.”

He’s right. The three Crossroads Towers are terrific, large size condominiums with dedicated condo boards that have kept them well maintained. Right now they are suffering the traffic volume that results from building new condos in surrounding areas to put riders on new transit lines and then cancelling the transit lines.

At the meeting, residents made clear that they understood the transit postponement issues leftover from the Ford-era very well but that recently they noticed a marked change in traffic flows. They are having real trouble getting in and out. And guess what? Here is Traffic Planner Shawn Dartsch’s response:

“Following the 1900 Sheppard Ave Condo Board meeting our signals staff have completed their review. They found two faulty vehicle detectors which will be repaired as soon as scheduling permits. There was also an issue that was causing the signals to go out of coordination. This has been rectified. They also made some changes to improve east/west traffic flow. Subsequent observations revealed that east/west traffic flow has improved on this section of Sheppard Ave E, although there is still peak period congestion due to the significant traffic volume. Please thank the residents for bringing these issues to our attention.”

There has been a bit of an overhaul in North York traffic services staff lately and we’ve got better response lately than I have had the entire time I’ve been a Councillor, no exaggeration. We have speed reviews and surveys going on in multiple locations, and will keep you posted. In the meantime, remember that along busy streets there are often entrances to multiple residents’ homes and driveways. If you see a car entering or exiting, be a sport, don’t block their way. Do unto other drivers as you would have them do unto you!

Next Week: Get Ready to Vote

On how to spend money in Ward 33, that is. I’ll bring you the rundown on our third and final Participatory Budgeting Vote.