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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Protecting Frontline Workers, Rooming House Update, and Making Streets

There were a number of important items debated and passed at City Council this week. We always have a busy agenda for the first session after summer ends, and this year was no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the most important items affecting our community here in Don Valley North.

 

Councillor Mike Colle and I put forward this motion to protect frontline workers from harassment by anti-vaxxer protestors. Mike came up to visit Don Valley North this past August, and while we sipped our coffees at Forest Café we talked about these protests happening right in front of hospitals, COVID assessment centres, and vaccine clinics. I told Mike I have absolutely zero tolerance for the threatening behaviours that were happening.


I have protested for some causes over the years, but always in locations where there are decision-makers present and where such activities are expected. It is unacceptable to harass healthcare workers and their patients at the hospital door.

Our motion passed, which means that the City Manager will work with the Chief of Police to establish a rapid response protocol to these protests. Staff are also going to explore setting up a 100 meter safety zone around hospitals to protect staff and patients from these protests.

 


Last week, I wrote about this proposal from City staff to regulate and license multi-tenant homes, more commonly known as rooming houses, and the many improvements made to it. I was disappointed that many Councillors had not read the additional report written over the summer or the confidential legal advice provided by our City Solicitor. At times during the debate, it seemed that few had even read the original proposal created over a year ago.


As much as the Mayor supports this framework, and knows how badly we need something to change the illegal rooming house situation in the suburbs, it became clear to him that there needs to be better communication delivered to Councillors and their communities before proceeding to a vote. A report outlining the improvements being made to enforcement and implementation, and a citywide communication plan, will return to Council in the first half of 2022.

 

EXPANDING AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT


Council adopted a number of items that will expand various forms of automated traffic enforcement in our city. We voted to extend the use of 70 additional Red Light Cameras that were added back in 2017, as well as to explore ways we can expand the use of our Automated Speed Enforcement cameras to different areas in the city, including senior safety zones.


Council also directed Transportation Services and Municipal Licensing and Standards to explore the implementation of an automated “noise radar” system in our residential areas. I’ve heard from many residents in Don Valley North who are plagued by excessive vehicle noise late at night, and I’m glad to see my fellow Councillors looking for creative solutions to tackle this city-wide issue.

 

This item jumped out at me when I read the agenda. Councillor Thompson has a relatively new townhouse development in Scarborough that is asking permission to have on-street overnight permit parking allowed. Staff recommended that we allow this small enclave to apply to pay for overnight parking permits as an anomaly.

In 2022, Transportation Services plans to report to Council with a study of permit parking in the areas of downtown and East York where it is currently allowed. They will also explore the impact of allowing permit parking more widely in our suburbs where it is not currently permitted. In Don Valley North, we will have to consider it very carefully. It would be quite a change.

 


This was our first meeting of Council since the federal election, and we authorized receipt of nearly $135 million from Phase Two of the Federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). Council also authorized the spending of city development charge funding to begin due diligence for upcoming rapid housing projects.


This RHI funding is the only way we can keep the Mayor and Council’s commitment to begin construction on another 2000 units of deeply affordable and supportive housing before the end of this term of office. These units will be spread across the city and are crucial to reducing the number of people living in shelters. If we provide permanent housing with supports to help get clients on track, we will be on our way to winding down the many emergency hotels that have been necessary during the pandemic.


Council is committed to develop 20% of these units in partnership with First Nations housing providers. In October 2020, Council voted to ensure that 5,200 affordable rental homes are created for Indigenous people by 2030. At our meeting this week, we voted to work with Miziwe Biik Development Corporation to support the creation of these units in partnership with Indigenous-led housing providers. This is an important step in the City’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

 


This development settlement represents some of the worst aspects of the Provincial planning system today. Even more troubling, it happened right across the street from our ward boundary in Willowdale.

This goes back to 2017. A developer applied to build a 14 storey building at Teagarden Court and Bayview Avenue. City Planning and local residents felt that the building was too far up the street from the subway to warrant this height. Planning settled with the applicant at what was then called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to reduce the building height to 11 storeys.

In 2018, our current Provincial government took office and passed Bill 108, which allows broader density around subway stations. Once this was passed, the developer came right back with a new application to go back to the 14 storey design. Planning quickly brought a refusal report to Council but the developer appealed to the new government’s Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). The OLT has awarded the 14 storeys in a quick hearing.


If you read through the Council item, there’s a frustrating amount of confidential content that you cannot access until after the hearing concludes. I continue to stress that far too much of the Provincial planning appeal process is finalized in confidential minutes of settlement.


I take my own approach to this confidentiality issue. Developers can choose to share their final offers with the community, so I meet with the developer as soon as a settlement is being drawn up and strongly encourage them to do so. This allows me to hear from the community before Council votes on the settlement in a confidential setting.

 

As you can see, Council has been hard at work tackling a variety of issues that affect our daily lives here in Don Valley North. I always value hearing from the community, so feel free to get in touch with my office to share your feedback on anything I’ve outlined here.

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