Beyond our wildest expectations: why we need 10 more years with Waterfront Toronto
On July 2, 2014, CodeBlueTO was represented at a deputation to the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee. The following is what was said on our behalf.
Chair and members of the Executive Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the City’s review of Waterfront Toronto’s Strategic Direction for the next ten years.
The staff report before you speaks of providing a “platform for the future” for the next ten years of Waterfront Revitalization. That is exactly what many of us agree is needed at this time – we who follow the unfolding waterfront plans as members of the public.
I am John Wilson. I am here representing CodeBlueTO, a coalition of individuals, organizations, and groups who share a vision for Toronto’s revitalized waterfront.
On my own time, and of my own accord, I have been deeply involved in Waterfront Toronto’s work since it began. First, I served as the Chair of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don – the City Advisory Body that first advocated for a Re-naturalized Don River Mouth in the 1990s.
As a public advocate for a new, sustainable approach to city-building, I served on the Technical Advisory Committees for two Lower Don Environmental Assessments, including the Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Environmental Assessment (EA) that is finally unlocking the Port Lands.
I chaired the stakeholder committee that reviewed the design competition that resulted in the Preferred Option for this EA. And I have contributed to hundreds of public meetings, stakeholder group meetings and civil society organization meetings over the past ten-plus years.
From my position on the ground, as waterfront revitalization has unfolded, I want to report to you two important facts.
First, waterfront revitalization has been achieved beyond the wildest expectations of those of us who were there at the beginning, and this is because of the existence of Waterfront Toronto and the dedicated work of its staff.
We have seen the completion of challenging, complex environmental assessments and precinct plans that resulted in award-winning designs, and great new developments.
To name a few, we now have:
- Corktown Common Park
- Underpass Park
- Sherbourne Common Park
- Sugar Beach
These are public realm enhancements that have spurred:
- The Pan-Am Games Athletes’ Village development
- Urban Capital’s River City
- Two major new George Brown College facilities
- Dundee Kilmer’s Canary District development
- Corus Quay corporate headquarters
- Hines and Tridel’s AQUALINA-Bayside development
- Great Gulf’s Monde development
Waterfront Toronto staff have worked with the public, the private sector and stakeholders to build all these developments:
- on a sustainable footing
- in harmony with the lake and the natural environment
- serving the diverse communities that make up Toronto and
- providing value-enhancement to the City, the Province and Canada.
My second point is that Waterfront Toronto needs another ten years to finish the job, under a stronger mandate.
The Port Lands Acceleration Initiative marked a critical turning point in waking up stakeholders, the development community, City Staff and elected officials to the incredible opportunities – and the mind-boggling challenges that are still on the table on the Waterfront.
The biggest challenges ahead are – the Don River and the Port Lands – as well as finishing the East Bayfront and the Central Waterfront – and addressing transportation needs. To finish these projects, the Province and the Federal governments must be re-engaged. AND the City of Toronto must be fully committed to the next phase of waterfront revitalization.
The governance and funding challenges have been identified for the next ten years. These require that the waterfront agency continue to be supported by strong public oversight – that it have access to new funding sources – and that it has a strong long-term mandate that is insulated from day-to-day political flavours of the month.
The staff report in front of you begins to outline these challenges and their potential solutions. To finish the job, staff needs the mandate and the resources to review and plan a strategic way forward, with Waterfront Toronto and our provincial and federal partners.
I urge you to direct staff to put their shoulders to this task, mapping out a path to complete Waterfront Revitalization.
— John Wilson
On Tuesday, Council considers a bigger, busier Island Airport
“We only have one waterfront. Its vitality and value to the city should not be put at risk by an airport expansion proposal that currently raises more questions than answers.”
— John Campbell & Mark Wilson, Waterfront Toronto
Dear CodeBlueTO supporter:
Thank you! It’s been a long and worthwhile effort to keep our shared vision for Toronto. CodeBlueTO was created to defend Port Lands planning from being taken over by a Ferris Wheel and shopping mall. Now, there’s a new challenge.
On April 1, City Council is voting on the proposal to, among other things, expand Toronto Island Airport’s runway into the harbour and further west. Unfortunately, many Councillors remain unconvinced of the social, economic and environmental benefits that Waterfront Toronto’s balanced approach brings to our shoreline.
A city staff report raises concerns that still need to be addressed, including:
- the airport being too big
- traffic being too busy for the area
- safety for local schools
- health effects of air pollution in a densely populated area
- a negative impact on Waterfront Toronto’s plans for the Port Lands
- danger to wildlife
- possible public green space loss
- what the effects will be for harbour boating and the Waterfront in general
If we are going to keep a fine balance of uses on our Waterfront, Councillors need to hear from you! We need you to call or email your Councillor before Tuesday. Say that you live in the area, and will be voting this October, and that you will be watching what happens this week very closely. Don’t forget to mention your address, too.
THERE’S STILL TIME! Please make sure your member of Council knows you want a Waterfront in keeping with the plans we’ve been working on for so long! And thank you once again for believing in a shared vision: “Our city, our Waterfront.”
Have your say about how much the Waterfront means to you!
Quote from the Toronto Star March 18, 2014: Expanded island airport would mar the waterfront
Evidence supports taking down the Gardiner
Based on the EA Preliminary Results Evaluation Matrix, CodeBlueTO is in favour of the Remove option for the section of the Gardiner to the east of Lower Jarvis Street.
The status quo is not acceptable. It is significantly more expensive than the Remove option, and would sacrifice Toronto’s growth to shave a couple minutes off of the commute of a relatively small number of drivers during rush hour. To put any traffic concerns in perspective, it is important to note that the capacity of the King streetcar is the same as the number of people entering downtown from the DVP and Lakeshore Blvd during the peak morning hour.
Looking to the future of the city and the region, CodeBlueTO supports evidence-based transportation planning. In this case, the evidence supports removing this section of the Gardiner.
While it is important to obtain a defensible level of traffic efficiency, we cannot solve city-wide problems of gridlock with any of the options for this small section of the Gardiner. What we can do is set up the right conditions for therevitalization of the Lower Yonge, East Bayfront, Keating and Port Lands precincts. Development of these areas represents a footprint greater than that of the entire downtown core. They could be the largest potential driver of economic growth in the city over the next fifty years.
Given the low level of design detail that has been presented to date, it may be worthwhile to consider going to city council with a more flexible recommendation that would allow the EA process to continue, while giving an opportunity for further refinement of the preferred option, before making a final financial commitment.
As a city, Toronto cannot afford to waste money on crumbling 20th century infrastructure when we have the opportunity to unlock the value of our waterfront for this century. From aesthetics to economics – and just about everything in between – the choice is clear: Remove.
on behalf of CodeBlueTO
There’s still time for you to share your opinion with the City of Toronto! Today is the last day to “Have Your Say”: Future of the Gardiner East
Message to Toronto’s Executive Committee regarding airport expansion
Sent in advance of the December 5 meeting, where members of the committee voted to defer the item to the new year.
CodeBlueTO urges the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee to support staff recommendations relating to the proposed expansion of the Island Airport. We agree with Waterfront Toronto’s position on this issue:
The decision regarding the expansion of BBTCA is a generational question, with impacts that can potentially profoundly affect both the significant achievements that have already been made to transform the waterfront into a destination to live, work and play, and the future revitalization prospects for the entire Waterfront.
At this moment:
- The Toronto Port Authority has not released a master plan for the airport expansion. The Island Airport is alone in Canada for not having such a plan. It seems like this should be a basic starting point Council would require of a project with such significant implications related to City spending, possible opportunity costs, impacts on continued revitalization, and unknown positive and negative results for Toronto residents, as well as visitors.
- Transport Canada has not signed off on the proposed runway extension.
- The scope of infrastructure required to accommodate so many more passengers is prohibitive. The foot of Bathurst Street, and the surrounding area, would require an intensive overhaul in order to accommodate significantly increased traffic and possibly expanded, purpose-built transit. This work would likely be at odds with public investments to reclaim the waterfront – including the current transformation of Queens Quay into an iconic boulevard. It also has the potential to create an undesirable burden on the tax base, as the Toronto Port Authority has made no indication it wants to pay for this. It is unclear how such an investment would be in the City’s interests. Prior to this push for expansion, interested parties failed to submit a convincing, detailed business plan outlining the expansion’s viability (Porter), nor is there a comprehensive master plan for a sustainable, balanced expanded airport (Toronto Port Authority). Cart, meet horse.
- Health impacts of both the current operation as well as an even busier airport, are of concern. It is known that jets emit more nitrogen oxide than the turbo-prop planes now used by Porter Airlines. And Toronto Health indicates that the airport is already making people nearby sicker than people in the rest of the city.
CodeBlueTO is a group composed of concerned residents who come from different parts of Toronto – people who have had varying degrees of involvement in waterfront revitalization over the years. We are united in our commitment to the vision for a revitalized waterfront that Waterfront Toronto has developed together with its community partners. The vision, the revitalization that has been done to date, and plans for future work must be protected from encroachment by inappropriate developments that threaten a very fine balance.
We came together and formed CodeBlueTO to play a significant role in protecting the City’s approved plans for the Port Lands. We’d hate to see years of effort go to waste due to a hasty, ill-conceived rush to expand the airport. Clearly, an expanded airport and the addition of jet aircraft at this central location will have a significant economic impact on development, redevelopment and the value of waterfront lands.
From danger to wildlife to potential loss of green space, and from effects on harbour boating to limitation of urban design possibilities on the Port Lands, the threats to Toronto’s waterfront are real. Opening up the Island Airport to jet aircraft would transform it into a major international transportation facility that would dominate the waterfront and destroy the fine balance of activities that Waterfront Toronto and its community partners have been working so hard to create.
The staff report will be as accurate in January as it is now: there has not been sufficient time allocated to adequately study the potential, wide-ranging consequences of the jet and expansion proposal. CodeBlueTO agrees with City staff that the existing consultants’ reports cannot form a sufficient basis for Council to make a decision to go ahead with Porter’s proposal, and the Port Authority’s late-coming insistence that expansion be coupled with a new lease, locking the City into 50 more years of airport use. (It is both surprising and unfortunate that the TPA was unable to outline its requirement in the spring, before this exercise began.)
We understand that Porter Airlines has been busy at City Hall, lobbying Councillors to move the company’s interests ahead. This airport expansion has an extraordinary potential to reshape Toronto as we know it, and affect life on the waterfront for generations to come. As representatives of all residents, Council’s Executive Committee should not rush this decision based on the soothing words of one business, and in the absence of so much crucial information.
Members of CodeBlueTO know that the need to balance demands on the waterfront could lead the Executive Committee to support staff recommendations, allowing enough time to gather relevant data, as well as to consult both the public and specific stakeholders. However, we cannot support a decision to push through an approval for this expansion, even one with conditions. Too many facts are simply missing. A motion to defer the matter for another month does not change the good work and solid recommendations provided by our public servants.
Save Our Waterfront!
It’s time to be heard about the possible expansion of the Toronto Island Airport! Tell City Council how much our Waterfront – and the future of the Port Lands – means to you.
CodeBlueTO believes the changes being considered for the Toronto Island Airport could have a profound impact on our Waterfront. And we can all do something to stop it.
It feels like the struggle to save our vision for the Port Lands – and the whole City’s relationship to the lake – is being challenged once again.
You probably already know that Porter Airlines’ CEO, Robert Deluce, wants to open up the Tripartite Agreement, which governs the operations of the Island Airport, so that he can fly jets to YTZ. Right now, the City wants to hear what you think about it. The City is also working on a number of reports about the plan. Then, in December, Council will vote to support or reject extending the runway into our lake … and bringing jets downtown, with a long, low flight path over the Port Lands.
A call for action
Now’s your chance to get involved with residents from across Toronto, working together as NoJetsTO, which is dedicated to preserving the City’s mixed-use Waterfront, and ensuring the airport is in balance with that use. The core organizers of CodeBlueTO have agreed to support the work of NoJetsTO. We encourage you to do the same. Through NoJetsTO, you can:
- Sign a petition (sending an email directly to your City Councillor).
- Donate to NoJetsTO.
- Order a lawn sign.
Questions about the proposed expansion of the Toronto Island Airport, a longer runway, and the addition of jets to the Waterfront
- Do you want to see the future of the Port Lands, Exhibition Place, the Canadian National Exhibition, and Ontario Place damaged by low-flying jet takeoffs and landings?
- Are you prepared to sacrifice some of our island parks to commercial fuel storage tanks and other facilities to service jet airplanes?
- With the reduction of Queens Quay to a two-lane boulevard, would there be a practical way to make sure area traffic won’t become even more of a congested nightmare with a huge increase in the number of passengers coming to and from the airport?
- Do you feel there is an urgent need to extend the Island Airport runway into our harbour and bring jets downtown in light of the Province of Ontario’s quick link rail system, scheduled to start in 2015, which will take 25 minutes to get from Union Station to Pearson Airport?
- Can you give up more of the central harbour for the sake of longer runways and larger exclusion zones to keep boats away from bigger planes landing and taking off?
- Are you willing to see small watercraft – canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, dinghies, learners’ sail boats – hit by gale-force jet blasts?
- Would you be comfortable with increased air, water and noise pollution across southern Toronto?
- Does the increased danger from bird strikes bother you, with the knowledge that waterfowl and bird sanctuaries are in the area?
- Are you aware City Staff have already said that reopening the existing Tripartite Agreement for one aircraft would in fact allow a whole class of jets built by different manufacturers, and open our Island Airport to more airlines?
- Would it concern you to know that there would also be a risk of NAFTA and Open Skies Agreement-related lawsuits if international airlines are not given the same privileges as Porter?
Let the City know about your priorities for the Waterfront
One last thing – please take a moment to fill out the City of Toronto’s online survey: Future of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. (If you’d like background details about what’s being considered, you can visit the City of Toronto’s Airport Review section.)
CodeBlueTO thanks you!