The Planning Review Panel is a representative group of 32 randomly selected Torontonians that help the City Planning Division guide growth and change in Toronto. They have been asked by the Chief Planner to work together over the course of two years to provide City Planning with informed public input on major planning initiatives. Members are tasked, in particular, with helping to ensure that these initiatives are aligned with the values and priorities of all Torontonians.
Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, presented to the Panel about a City Council motion instructing the City Planning Division to explore options to increase housing options and grant more planning permissions in areas of Toronto designated as Neighbourhoods in the Official Plan. He explained how the City’s Official Plan and current zoning determine the types of housing that can be built in Toronto’s neighbourhoods and showed how much of Toronto’s total area is zoned for detached houses versus other forms of housing. The City would like to explore changing permissions to enable the building of more forms of ‘gentle density’ in Neighbourhoods, including duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, and small walk-up apartments, with the goal of increasing the quantity and diversity of the City’s housing stock while helping to improve housing affordability.
The Division is in the early stages of studying the issue and developing options, and visited the Panel to gather preliminary feedback from a broader city-wide perspective on the appropriate proportion of ‘missing middle’ type housing in the areas designated as Neighbourhoods, as well as what concerns or issues may need to be addressed as a result.
Panelists were organized into four groups, and each group was assigned to one planning district of Toronto: Etobicoke York, North York, Scarborough, and Toronto and East York. The Panel then discussed the following in small groups:
Overall, Panelists supported increasing the amount of ‘gentle density’ in areas of Toronto currently designated for lower-scale residential uses in the Official Plan. While the exact split varied from table to table, most Panelists suggested something closer to a 50/50 split between detached houses and forms of ‘missing middle’ housing like duplexes, triplexes, walk-up apartments, and townhouses in Neighbourhoods. Panelists tended to suggest a higher ratio of medium to low density homes in Toronto and East York and Scarborough (roughly 2/3 missing middle and 1/3 detached houses for these areas), while proposing closer to a 50/50 split for Etobicoke and North York.
Panelists were broadly sympathetic to the idea that a better balance needs to be struck between the needs of people living in detached houses and Torontonians who are struggling to find secure housing.
A few Panelists disagreed with the majority of the Panel and argued that detached houses add character and are better for families, and that the housing mix should therefore stay largely as is.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Missing Middle Master Plan – December 7, 2019
The City is currently developing a Digital Infrastructure Plan to help regulate the use of digital technologies and data use in city life. This Plan would apply both to the internal decisions and policies of the City, as well as to external applications received by the City that are related to the digital realm. Michael Noble, Senior Planner at the Waterfront Secretariat, presented to the Panel about the forthcoming Plan and asked the Panel for their input on the Plan’s draft guiding principles.
The draft guiding principles provided to the Panel were:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Digital Innovation Plan – December 7, 2019
Melanie Melnyk and Dan Nicholson from the City Planning Division attended the Panel to present on the City’s Master Plan process for Exhibition Place. City staff have been directed by Council to write a new Master Plan for the site that also aligns with emerging plans for the adjacent provincially-owned Ontario Place. Staff have been working since June to gather input from various stakeholders and the general public to inform the draft Master Plan.
Exhibition Place is a 192-acre site on the waterfront that hosts many of Toronto’s most significant conventions and exhibitions. It is also home to several sports venues, including BMO Field and the Coliseum. The site has various heritage properties as well as some entertainment venues and public parkland. Exhibition Place faces challenges related to its size and location, primarily that it is not well-connected in terms of transit, cycling and pedestrian access, and feels separated from the surrounding area due to being bordered by Lake Ontario on one side and Lakeshore Blvd on the other.
The project team presented the Panel with five broad principles that they hope to accomplish in the new Master Plan:
For each principle, the project team then described several specific ideas to help illustrate how these principles might be realized in the Master Plan.
The project team also sought feedback from the Panel on four ‘Big Ideas’. These ideas were: 1) Enhancing the ‘gateways’ to the site, 2) Building an elevated multi-use promenade that would go the entire length of the site; 3) Making Exhibition Place a sustainability and innovation zone; and 4) Creating a new major gathering place.
Following this presentation, the project team posed three questions to the Panel:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Exhibition Place Master Plan – November 2, 2019
Sara Phipps and Michelle Drylie from the City Planning Division presented to the Panel about the King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review. The City is in the process of drafting a new secondary plan for the neighbourhood. The King-Parliament Secondary Plan must consider recent changes to the Planning Act, and must also incorporate directions from the recently-approved Downtown Plan.
Recent provincial policy changes have impacted how community benefits are categorized and funded, meaning that in the Secondary Plan the City may need to prioritize between different types of benefits to the public realm. The project team sought the Panel’s input on how to prioritize and balance these trade-offs in different parts of the neighbourhood.
The project team presented background on the legislation that affects their ability to make public realm improvements, discussed the Downtown Plan, and outlined the King-Parliament Study Area and the neighbourhoods included therein. They also presented maps of the location of current and potential heritage buildings, currently existing parks and public land, and some of the City’s planned “Big Moves” for the area.
Because the context and built form of the King-Parliament area vary by neighbourhood, the types of public realm benefits that are most beneficial would likewise depend on the neighbourhood. For this reason, the project team presented three examples of different types of neighbourhoods in the King-Parliament area:
These three areas had different features and characteristics, and were presented as archetypes for other, similar areas to which the Panel’s recommendations could also apply.
The Panel was also presented with six examples of public realm community benefits that the City may need to trade-off:
The project team explained each benefit and described where they’re most needed or where they’re most often seen.
In groups, Panelists were then asked to review each of the three neighbourhoods again and select three benefits they would prioritize for each area, and explain their rationale for these choices. Following this activity, Panelists were also asked to describe some overall.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for King Parliament Secondary Plan – November 2, 2019
Planning Division staff visited the Panel to consult on proposed interventions to mitigate different issues caused by a proliferation of restaurants and bars in Kensington in recent years. There are two primary issues being considered: noise and nuisance caused by late night bar patrons, and deterioration of the mix of uses within Kensington Market.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Kensington Market – September 21, 2019
Planning Division staff visited the Panel to consult on the preliminary vision for the first four sites of the Housing Now affordable housing strategy. Staff asked the Panel for their reflections on whether current plans for one of the sites, Wilson Heights, strikes an appropriate balance between competing priorities, as well as what planning elements and public benefits the City should extend across all eleven Housing Now sites.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Housing Now – June 15, 2019
The City of Toronto is designing new public notices for the Committee of Adjustment with the goal of making them more engaging, informative, accessible, and attractive. Staff from the Planning Division and Committee of Adjustment provided the Panel with two updated design options — Sign 1, in landscape, and Sign 2, in portrait. The Panel provided input on what they found effective and ineffective about each, which sign they preferred, and high level general feedback on design, layout, and content. the Panel identified five primary recommendations for the Committee of Adjustment sign redesign:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Committee of Adjustment Development Notices: Signage Redesign – June 15, 2019
The City of Toronto is currently conducting a Secondary Plan Study of the Golden Mile. The Secondary Plan will manage development that is anticipated to result from several new stops on the Eglinton Crosstown Line between Victoria Park Ave and Warden Ave. The study is at the end stages, and the planning team visited the Panel to get feedback on whether their plan appropriately includes the most important planning ingredients to support the growth of a mixed-use neighbourhood, and appropriately addresses potential planning shortfalls.
The Panel identified three key ingredients that the City should ensure is included in their plan for Golden Mile, as well as one potential shortfall that they should be sure to address.
Panelists felt that it is essential that the Golden Mile transition from a primarily car-centric neighbourhood to one that is easily accessed and enjoyed by pedestrians and transit users. They felt that the City’s current plan does address walkability, though greater improvements to the safety of crossing Eglinton Ave E could be made.
Panelists stressed the need to both retain pieces of the community’s existing character, while also ensuring that the Golden Mile develops a unique new character that makes it a notable and complimentary part of Toronto’s quilt of neighbourhoods. Panelists were not sure that this ingredient is yet addressed in the City’s plan, but noted that there may be opportunities to build this ingredient into the plan’s design guidelines.
Panelists were concerned about the long-term affordability of the Golden Mile area as new transit, residences, and public amenities move in. Based on the information they received, panelists did not feel affordability was sufficiently addressed in the plan, though they acknowledged the City has only some mechanisms to control the variables that create unaffordability. They emphasized that the City should make sure to use the tools at their disposal to ensure a percentage of affordable residences, as well as a range of businesses and amenities that cater to all income levels, both for local residents and the surrounding communities.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report Golden Mile Secondary Plan Study – June 13, 2019
The City of Toronto is in the early stages of drafting a new 10-year housing strategy for 2020-2030. Panelists were presented with the latest research on Toronto’s current and projected housing challenges and asked to provide input on principles that the City should use as guidance when selecting actions for the strategy. They were also asked to brainstorm a list of possible actions that the City could take to address Toronto’s housing challenges, and select the ones they considered most promising.
In terms of specific ideas to address housing, there were five ideas that the Panelists felt were most strategic for the City to pursue:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report Housing Strategy 2020-2030 – April 13, 2019
The City of Toronto Planning Division has drafted the city’s first-ever biodiversity strategy, aimed at protecting and enhancing Toronto’s biodiversity in the face of ongoing species and habitat loss, invasive species, human impacts, and climate change. The draft strategy has nineteen action items, included in this report as an Appendix.
Panelists were asked to reflect on whether the proposed actions in the draft strategy adequately address biodiversity loss in Toronto and serve the interests of all Torontonians, and then make recommendations on possible amendments and additions to these items.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Biodiversity Strategy – March 2, 2019
The City of Toronto is currently reviewing certain aspects of the Official Plan that relate to transportation. The transportation policies currently under review are related to transit, cycling, automated vehicles, shared mobility services, and are generally found in sections 2.2 and 2.4 of the Official Plan. Panelists were presented with the proposed revisions and were asked:
Panelists reached broad agreement that all policies presented, as far as they were able to understand them given the time available, were generally appropriate and likely to meet the expectations of Torontonians.
With respect to transit policies, Panelists supported the idea of a more systematic process for planning higher-order transit improvements, and agreed that greater emphasis on the work of the bus and streetcar network was important. They also suggested there be greater clarity and consistency concerning the way “quality transit” was described, and suggested including more consistent reference in transit policies to a transit system that is accessible, affordable, equitable, safe, and resilient.
With respect to cycling policies, Panelists agreed with the Official Plan’s expanded focus on growing cycling infrastructure throughout the city, and supported the policy that would seek to locate bicycle lanes within one kilometre of every Toronto resident. They also offered a number of suggestions for how to improve Draft Policy #14, with particular focus on increasing access to bike sharing and other cycling support facilities.
With respect to automated vehicles and shared mobility services, the Panel broadly agreed that these were important issues to address in the Official Plan. There was consensus among the Panelists that the City is taking the right approach by emphasizing the need to first assess the impact of these new technologies before drafting further policies. They also supported improvements to curbside management and access to shared parking. The Panel also suggested that road safety and reduced congestion could be given greater emphasis as primary policy goals for Automated Vehicles and Shared Mobility Policies.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Official Plan Transportation Policies Review Phase 2 – March 2, 2019
The Panel was visited by the project team for TransformTO, Toronto’s climate change strategy. Toronto has set a long-term goal to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80% by 2050. The project team is developing an implementation plan for the years 2020-2023, which will be presented to Council in 2019. The implementation plan proposes to focus on five key action areas: buildings, energy, transportation, waste, and engagement. They will select and promote actions in these areas that both reduce GHGs and provide one or more of four priority community benefits: health, equity, economic prosperity, and resilience.
The TransformTO team asked for the Panel’s input on how to select actions for the 2020-2023 implementation plan that both fight climate change and address community benefits that are most valued by all Torontonians.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for TransformTO – December 8, 2018
The City of Toronto is developing Pet Friendly Design Guidelines to help developers better accommodate pets in multi-unit, high density communities. The project team first visited the Planning Review Panel in May 2018 to collect preliminary advice from Panelists, and were returning to get the Panel’s final feedback on the near-completed document.
Panelists were broadly satisfied with the draft guidelines and felt that the document adequately addresses the opportunities and challenges presented by pets in high-density communities. They noted that while neighbourhood, building, and unit design can address many challenges, there are unresolved issues around owner etiquette and education that may require additional interventions from the City that lie primarily outside the Guidelines.
Panelists had several minor recommendations for the guidelines:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Pet Friendly Guidelines for High Density Communities – December 8, 2018
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Pet Friendly Design Guidelines for High Density Communities – May 5, 2018
Heritage Preservation Services visited the Panel to discuss a potential city-wide survey of all of Toronto’s heritage resources. Such a survey would likely take several years to complete, so the Heritage team will not be able to study everything that requires its urgent attention right away. The project team asked the Panel to review seven criteria and help them determine which criteria are most important, so they can in turn decide which areas to study first. The seven criteria were: amount of development activity; fragility of an area; archaeology; potential cultural heritage value; planning priorities; equitable distribution of study areas; and equitable distribution of eras.
While there was not complete consensus on how to prioritize the criteria, most Panelists agreed with the following recommendations:
While there was not complete consensus on how to prioritize the criteria, most Panelists agreed with the following recommendations:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Heritage Survey – November 3, 2018
The Automated Vehicles (AV) team of the Transportation Services Division visited the Panel to present a set of draft directional statements and goals, which will form the basis of a tactical plan on Automated Vehicles for the City of Toronto. The Automated Vehicles team wanted the Panel’s input as to whether these draft statements and goals sufficiently address the opportunities and issues raised by the imminent introduction of AV technology in the City of Toronto.
Most Panelists agreed that the draft directional statements and goals are broadly appropriate, but they proposed several additions and clarifications related to some of the goals and statements:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Automated Vehicles – November 3, 208
Panelists made recommendations to the City as to how to balance different considerations for Toronto’s forthcoming inclusionary zoning policy.
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing – September 15, 2018
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Wellesley-Parliament Square – September 15, 2018
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report on Toronto Resilience Strategy – June 23, 2018
Panelists generally encouraged the City to use its scarce park resources wisely. Broadly, they agreed that the City should focus on:
Panel’s detailed advice is included in a full Summary Report for Parkland Strategy – March 24, 2018
Summary Reports from all meetings of the 2015-2017 Toronto Planning Review Panel. Session topics are in brackets.