Get the latest news from Councillor Wong-Tam!
- Welcome Letter from Councillor Wong-Tam
- September 2017 Council Highlights
- Get on the Fence at Church Street Junior Public School
- Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge Public Information Event
- 46th Annual Ecumenical Christmas Food Drive: Volunteers Wanted!
- George Street Revitalization Moving Forward
- Yonge Street Property Taxes Update
- Learn about Ward 27 Development
- Got a Question? Consult the New Ward 27 Constituency FAQ!
- Community Spotlight: YWCA Toronto
Welcome Letter from Councillor Wong-Tam
Downtown Toronto is the lifeblood of our city. It is where residents and visitors come to shop, work, play and, more increasingly to live. As an economic powerhouse of Ontario and Canada, Toronto's downtown needs community investment to ensure it remains a vibrant, accessible and safe environment for everyone. That's why I've fought hard for the revitalization of College Park, the redevelopment of Seaton House and have worked to secure new space for an Indigenous business incubator at Dundas East and Jarvis.
Decades of new residential growth, along with budget cuts to social services, health care, affordable and supportive housing, has left downtown and vulnerable populations without adequate supports. The impacts can be seen on streets, shelters and parks. These impacts have been compounded by an opioid crisis, which has led to numerous untimely deaths due to overdoses. This loss of life has added unimaginable trauma to our already struggling and vulnerable communities.
Ward 27 residents, businesses and community partners who live and work in these neighbourhoods witness every day how the lack of coordination and investment in social supports and affordable housing have failed so many. Many have reported noticeable escalation in open drug use, discarded needles, assaults, violent behaviour, instances of littering and graffiti. Front line advocates are experiencing all-time high levels of trauma from witnessing people experiencing and dying from drug overdoses. The spirit-breaking social conditions as a result of the opioid crisis are unacceptable.
In response to concerns about the impacts of drug activity, vandalism, street harassment and escalating violence, I organized eight community safety walks this year in affected Ward 27 neighbourhoods, working to find solutions and responses to some of the issues that have been identified. Over the past year, I have been working very closely with our business improvement areas (BIAs), resident associations, community agencies, police divisions and city divisions to address some of the downtown safety concerns across Ward 27.
Toronto Police Service, in particular 51 Division, along with Social Development Finance & Administration have created innovative programs to create targeted interventions in complex cases. BIAs have worked collaboratively to foster relationships to improve reporting of issues and collection of data. Our resident associations have been working to animate local parks and build relationships to track and report issues. Toronto Public Health has moved as quickly as they can to address the increase in overdoses, through expanded training and the distribution of naloxone.
These actions are still not enough to respond to the public health emergency we are facing. Last week, Mayor Tory accepted my invitation to tour some "hot spots" in our communities. Ensuring vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods in our downtown will require innovation, collaboration, but also resources. This is a responsibility we all share at City Hall and across every level of government.
As the 2018 City Budget process begins, these are the issues that I will be bringing before City Council. I will be reaching out through forums and surveys over the upcoming months to hear about the concerns you have in your neighbourhood. I am committed to ensuring Downtown Toronto will see the investments that are needed to preserve and improve our social, health, and municipal services.
I remain yours in service,
2. September 2017 Council Highlights
In addressing the ongoing and escalating concerns around overdosing in the City of Toronto, City Council designated the Medical Officer of Health to function as Overdose Coordinator with the authority to direct and coordinate the City's response across divisions and agencies. City Council also called on the Province to take immediate actions to address the address the growing Public Health crisis.
City Council has authorized affordable housing to be constructed in the West Don Lands and 27 Grosvenor/26 Grenville Streets. These properties are being opened up for development by the Province of Ontario and, in partnership with the City of Toronto, affordable housing opportunities will be integrated into each project to secure 600 long-term affordable housing units. 27 Grosvenor/26 Grenville are Ward 27 properties that Councillor Wong-Tam has been calling on the Province to set aside for affordable housing since 2012. This recent provincial "good news" announcement represents successful advocacy from the local community and Councillor Wong-Tam.
City Council has given direction to staff to prepare the final recommendations report and official plan amendment for the Downtown Plan at the Planning and Growth Management Committee for spring 2018. Additionally, Council directed staff to engage in an extra round of consultations to refine the infrastructure plan in the downtown to accommodate current and forecast population growth. As services and community facilities have not kept pace with the rapid development of the downtown, this policy will help to guide growth and the creation of new services and neighbourhood spaces.
City Council has adopted the Draft Toronto Ravine Strategy. This strategy is the first of its kind to create an intentional and coordinated framework, vision and approach to managing ravines throughout Toronto. Councillor Wong-Tam passed an amendment to have staff develop a litter and maintenance strategy to support the long-term management plan.
City Council has made several official requests of the Province of Ontario regarding cannabis legalization. These requests include asking for cooperation with the City of Toronto in the development of regulations and enforcement, as well as engaging with the City of Toronto to determine appropriate locations for retail outlets. Council also directed the Medical Officer of Health to report back on the public health implications of places of consumption, such as cannabis lounges.
3. Get on the Fence at Church Street Junior Public School
In partnership with the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board is undertaking the replacement of fencing at the Church Street Junior Public School along Church Street. On October 12, Councillor Wong-Tam and Trustee Chris Moise held an open house to share the design direction being taken to create a vibrant new face for the school grounds on Church Street.
Incorporating dynamic lighting, colour and modern materials, current plans envision a 24/7 experience. To see the panels shown at the October 12 open house, please click here. If you have comments, please feel free to email them to our office at [email protected]
A second open house to show updated designs will be scheduled for November.
4. Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge Public Information Event
The City of Toronto is investigating options to address the declining condition of the Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge spanning Rosedale Valley Road.
This meeting is a follow-up to the first Public Information Centre that was held on July 14, 2017. The city now has a preliminary recommended design, which would replace the bridge in the same location while widening the tunnel. Drawings and imagery of the designs will be available at this event.
City staff invite you to come out and give some feedback on the preliminary design.
What: Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge & Tunnel Public Information Centre #2
When: Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 5:30pm to 8:30pm.
Where: St. Paul's Church, 227 Bloor Street East
To learn more about this project, please visit www.toronto.ca/glen-rd-ped-bridge
5. 46th Annual Ecumenical Christmas Food Drive: Volunteers Wanted!
Christmas can be a tough time of year for some residents, especially those struggling to provide food for themselves and their family. Last year, churches in Rosedale, Moore Park and Leaside collected approximately 16,000 food items and over $3,000 in donations for local food banks and agencies.
This year, the Ecumenical Christmas Food Drive once again needs your help in providing support to some of our most vulnerable residents. They are looking for 300 volunteers to support their efforts on Saturday, November 18 and 25, to knock on doors, collect gifts and sort donations at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. Community hours are available for high school students!
What: Ecumenical Christmas Food Drive
When: Saturday, November 18 and 25, 2017, 9:30am to 2:00pm.
Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (78 Clifton Road)
To learn more, please contact the Campaign Chair, Brian Kearney, at 416-972-0585 or by e-mail at [email protected].
6. George Street Revitalization Moving Forward
On Tuesday, another step in the revitalization of George Street moves forward at Toronto and East York Community Council, with a recommendation to approve a new building at 295-349 George Street. The project is commonly known as the George Street Revitalization project, and involves a number of properties, including Seaton House. Councillor Wong-Tam has been a key supporter of this community renewal project since she was elected in 2010.
Seaton House has a long history with the city, but the 634 bed men's shelter is struggling to properly maintain and care for the residents it currently houses. The current building does not properly serve the residents who reside there, nor the community. The application proposes to construct a new building that will provide 378 long term care beds, 130 transitional assisted living beds for men and women, 100 emergency shelter beds for men, 21 affordable housing units and a 4,000 m2 community service hub.
This proposal would integrate the majority of heritage designated properties, and set the new building behind the exterior portions of the retained heritage buildings. The community service hub will provide a range of services social services. Under consideration are limited health care, employment opportunities, education and training, financial support services, recreation and leisure services and community support services. Future work on George Street Revitalization will include a redesign of the streetscape to create a more beautiful, inviting, and safer street.
To read the final staff report, please click here.
7. Yonge Street Property Taxes Update
Earlier this year a group of Yonge Street business and property owners came to Councillor Wong-Tam with a major problem. Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC, the Province’s agency in charge of assessing property values) had increased their tax rates by as much as 400%. For small, local businesses this spelled the end. In August, Councillor Wong-Tam elaborated on these issues in the Toronto Star.
While tax law is complicated, the underlying issue is a simple one. Development pressure downtown has inflated the cost of properties significantly. Even when owners have no intention of selling or developing, their properties have been assessed at the same land value as new development sites. It was clear the City needed to act to help the owners in distress.
Meeting with Finance and Planning staff for the City, our office investigated the issues and options. Two major problems were identified. First, the assessments on Yonge Street appeared to be disconnected from the planning policies that had been putting in place to protect its historic character. Second, the current property classification system administered by MPAC does not properly reflect the current use of the city's main street, low-rise commercial buildings.
Planning staff provided Yonge Street owners with heritage and zoning policies that City Council had adopted over the past sixyears and, in August, MPAC announced that they would be re-assessing the property values to account for this new planning context. Many owners have had their assessment increases reduced by 50 to 70 per cent. Now, Councillor Wong-Tam's effort is directed to the long-term property classification changes that will be needed for a permanent solution.
Working with Finance staff, tax law experts, business and property owners, and the office of the Minister for Small Business, our office is now considering new assessment policy reforms. Councillor Wong-Tam is thankful to the Minister of Finance for his offer to consider a proposal from the City. In the New Year, our office will be bringing this work back to the community for further input in a public forum. If we can get this right and move a smart and fair plan forward, we will be saving the desirable character of main streets, not just on Yonge Street, but across Toronto’s many rapidly-intensifying neighbourhoods.
8. Learn about Ward 27 Development
Councillor Wong-Tam wants you to learn about current and upcoming development in your neighbourhood. The Ward 27 Development Map lists every application for a zoning by-law and/or official plan amendment received within the last 5 years. You can view the status of the application, learn briefly what it's about and find links to staff reports, applicant reports and more. The map also includes information about local neighbourhoods, including who is your Ward 27 staff contact and how to contact your local residents' association.
The development map will be regularly updated, with new applications and information when applicable. The map does not include Committee of Adjustment applications. If you see anything that you feel should be on the map, please contact [email protected]
For more information and to view the map, please visit http://www.ward27news.ca/development
9. Got a Question? Consult the New Ward 27 Constituency FAQ!
Do you want to report discarded needles but don't know how? Are you interested in implementing permit parking on your street but don't know where to start? Have you received a notice for a zoning by-law amendment in your area and want to know what comes next?
You can visit the Ward 27 Constituency Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to learn the answers to the above questions and many more common questions the office receives. The FAQ will be periodically updated with new questions.
To visit the Ward 27 Constituency FAQ, please visit: http://www.ward27news.ca/faq
10. Community Spotlight: YWCA Toronto
YWCA Toronto is Canada's largest multi-service women's organization working to improve the lives of women and girls across Toronto. YWCA Toronto's head office is located at 87 Elm Street, in the heart of Ward 27, with locations across the GTA.
As a pillar of the community for over 150 years, YWCA Toronto offers a range of programs and social supports that help women escape violence, move out of poverty, and access safe, affordable housing. Councillor Wong-Tam is proud to work with YWCA Toronto to advance gender equity in Ward 27 and across Toronto.
You can find out more about YWCA Toronto by visiting their website at http://www.ywcatoronto.org.
If you have a community organization or individual you would like to see mentioned in our newsletter, please send a 100 word write-up to our office at [email protected]!