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Council Highlights: Garden Suites, Saving Toronto’s Music Scene, & Troubling Development Trends

We wrapped up our first regular Council session of the year last week. I already wrote about many of the major items a few weeks back as they made their way through Committee. Today, let’s take a look at their final outcomes at Council, along with a few other notable motions.


The Mayor designated these as his two key items at Council. I spent a fair amount of time on calls in the week leading up to Council to make sure that both were successful. Staff did great work to put in good controls and monitoring for both items, so I asked my fellow Councillors not to tinker with or amend them too much. The Community Crisis Support Service (CCSS) Pilots, as you may recall from a past E-Blast, are the new, non-police emergency responses to persons in mental health crisis. Some of my colleagues wanted to withdraw money from the police budget and redirect it to these pilots right away, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t make that move during the initial rollout. As we get the hang of this new system, Toronto Police Service should have the resources they need to serve the rest of the city with their Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams. They also need to be a partner in any situation that gets beyond what the new CCSS can handle. In the end, Council agreed.

A rendering of Garden Suites next to a detached home and a semi-attached home.

Council also approved the framework for Garden Suites, largely in line with the rules proposed by our Chief Planner. Homeowners will need to have a large enough yard to even be eligible for a suite, and will need to construct it to meet all Ontario Building Code requirements. Homeowners will also need to fund two additional tree plantings for the City. This means that constructing one of these units with the proper permits will cost around $250,000, minimum. There’s also a provision that makes sure Councillors are kept up-to-date on all Garden Suite applications in their ward so that we can monitor the impact these have on our neighbourhoods.


Supporting Toronto’s Music Industry: Rehearsal Spaces, Venue Grants, and Hugh’s Room Loan Guarantee

Toronto has a long and rich history as a live music town. I remember when I was little, my dad would regale my sisters and I with tales of his after-work stops at places like the Town Tavern for some jazz or the Riverboat Coffee House, “to see what the Beatniks are listening to.”

A photo taken outside the Riverboat Coffee House on the day of the venue's last performance in 1978.

These were legendary places in the heart of the city. They not only hosted some greats who couldn’t quite fill Massey Hall, they were also places for new artists to grow. All of this was backed up by a seemingly endless supply of aging industrial areas in the east and west where musicians and artists could live and rehearse affordably. Our development explosion in recent years has put these spaces, and our local music industry, at risk. Mayor Tory and Council have been voting for a “Music City” strategy for some time. We like to say we’re all for helping the local music scene thrive, and some of my Council colleagues even spent a wonderful week in Austin, Texas to understand how that city achieved its “Music City” reputation. Last week at Council, we finally had a chance to walk the talk. Two items passed quite handily to make more space for music. One was directed to preserve our stock of rehearsal spaces. Since 2005, over 200 rehearsal rooms have closed. Only 232 are left, and many are located in future development areas. Council passed a motion asking the Chief Planner to explore whether the Province’s new Community Benefit Charges can be used to negotiate replacement rehearsal spaces for those closed due to development. The second was a motion asking staff to consider proposing a grant program for non-profit organizations to create or save live music spaces. There is no financial impact to asking for a report, so this passed as well.

Hugh's Room at its original location on Dundas St W.

Then came a chance to actually help musicians now. Hugh’s Room, a beloved small venue displaced from its long-time home in the west end, found a new place to rent in the east end but now has a dilemma. The property owner wants to sell, and has offered a very short window of opportunity for the venue operator to buy. In order to leverage financing to act quickly, they have asked the City for a loan guarantee on a $2 million loan. We have a long history of granting loan guarantees to cultural and sports facilities, but when a chance came to help out a small local venue Council started a debate that could’ve eaten up an entire afternoon. I’m happy to report that Council decided to move forward with this loan guarantee, provided staff complete the required due diligence and conditional on the City being ahead of all creditors if Hugh’s Room folds. Big motions aimed at supporting our music industry across the city are important, but Council must also take action to support our small venues if we want our city’s rich music scene to survive.


New Transit Area Planning Zones & Troubling Trends with the OLT

To finish off, there are a few general planning matters I want to touch on. Council adopted the Chief Planner’s report on creating the new Major Transit Station Area planning zones, as required by the Provincial Government. Don Valley North isn’t on the map for the first phase, but I’m keeping a close eye on this process because all of our Sheppard subway stations will be included in phase two.

I also want to draw your attention to a number of items that we call “Request for Direction Reports”. We get these when development applications are headed to the Ontario Land Tribunal without Council having voted on a finished site plan. As per Provincial guidelines, when a developer skips the Council process and appeals to the OLT, the City Solicitor tries to arrive at a settlement agreement with them. The Solicitor then brings a confidential report to Council requesting whether to enter into the agreement or oppose the OLT hearing. This month there were twelve such confidential reports presented at Council. I raise this because I want you to be aware of the Provincial rules and this troubling trend on the Council agenda. Twelve developments heading for the OLT is far too many. In my experience, the developments that are most successful and least disruptive to the neighbourhood are the ones that go through proper Council process and are negotiated without going to the OLT. Our Provincial Government has made it easier than ever for developers to bypass Council and the community, and we’re seeing many developers taking advantage of these new rules.


It was a busy first session back at City Council. As always, if you have questions or comments about anything above, feel free to reach out to my office. Hearing from the community is what lets me advocate for you as best I can on the (virtual) Council floor.


Planning & Development Updates

Prepared by Tom Gleason, Chief of Staff

Upcoming Community Meeting: 123 Parkway Forest Drive

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 6:30 PM City Planning staff will be hosting a virtual community meeting to hear from residents about this development application, which proposes to demolish five of the 10 existing townhouses and redevelop the site with a 29-storey residential building containing 339 units. The existing 19-storey residential building would remain. The Preliminary Report, which outlines the application, is available here. You can join the meeting online by WebEx or call in by phone. Please register here and you will receive further instructions by email. As always, our office will keep you informed and involved after the initial community consultation.

Updates from North York Community Council

The agenda for the next North York Community Council meeting on Wednesday, February 23rd was released today. Here’s a summary of the most notable items: 1200, 1210, 1220 Sheppard Avenue East - Plan of Subdivision Application - Final Report Back in 2013, the Ontario Municipal Board approved Amexon's development application for the site at 1200 to 1220 Sheppard Avenue East (just north of Leslie TTC station). After many years, Amexon has come in for approval of their Plan of Subdivision—the process that implements that Zoning By-law approved in 2013. The Plan of Subdivision creates the block for the road, the two development blocks, and the blocks for the lands to be conveyed to the TRCA. The heights for this development were set in the 2013 OMB approval. 680 and 688 Sheppard Avenue East - Request for Directions Report In 2019, Tribute Communities submitted an application to redevelop the site at 680-688 Sheppard Avenue East. The application proposed a 22-storey residential building consisting of an eight- to 13-storey mid-rise tower component and a six- to eight-storey podium containing 487 residential units total, including 35 rental replacement units. Tribute Communities subsequently appealed this application to the Ontario Land Tribunal. This report from City Planning recommends that the City oppose this application at the Provincial Tribunal. Shelley supports this direction from staff and will be working with community members as we approach a hearing date in the coming months. 11 Greenbriar Road - Preliminary Report A development application has been received by City Planning for 11 Greenbriar Road. The application proposes a 4-storey residential building with 29 units. The Preliminary Report which outlines the application is available here. We are only at the consultation stage for this application—it has not been approved yet. The community meeting will likely take place in March. Notices will be mailed out by the City Clerk and we will include the registration details for the virtual meeting in a future E-Blast. Should you have any questions about the process for this application, please don't hesitate to be in touch. For questions on the specifics of the application, you may contact the City's Planner reviewing the application directly: Name of Forthcoming Community Recreation Centre and Library at 100 Ethennonnhawahstihnen' Lane City staff have come forward with a request to formally name the new community centre at 100 Ethennonnhawahstihnen' Lane, next to Bessarion TTC station, in line with the street and park. "Ethennonnhawahstihnen'" comes from the Wendat language and means "where they lived good, beautiful lives”. The name was originally suggested by the Huron-Wendat for the site given its close proximity to the Moatfield Ossuary. What makes the Ossuary site unique was presence of many people who lived in peace, good health, and with few injuries past the age of 50, an exceptionally long time for the period which continues to hold true to this day. More information and the full report to Community Council can be found here.


Upcoming Vaccine Clinics in Don Valley North

Parkway Forest Community Centre

North York General Hospital and North York Toronto Health Partners are running a vaccine clinic at Parkway Forest Community Centre on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, February 15: 4:30 - 7:30 PM

  • Tuesday, February 22: 4:30 - 7:30 PM

First, second, and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna are available, and all ages (5+) are welcome. Appointments are preferred and prioritized but walk-ins are also welcome from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM while supplies last. A doctor will also be available on-site to answer questions. Book an appointment at the link below:

Booking Vaccine Appointments

COVID-19 vaccine appointments for first and second doses are available for those ages five and older. Third dose appointments are available for those ages 18 and older. Appointments cam be booked through the provincial booking system online or by phone:

  • Online:

  • Phone: 1-833-943-3900


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