Community – Let’s Plan for Success
When I think of community, I think about how we connect with each other. Whether it is around the soccer pitch taking in our kids latest game, in the playground as we come together, at a service club event where we aim higher for the greater good or simply walking the dog and seeing our friends and neighbours – and of course so many other ways we interact when we are at or are going to and coming from work, play, study or just general life.
It is quite obvious our communities are more than zoning and density. Yet that is all we currently plan for. Our Area Redevelopment Plans in our inner city established communities only cover density and zoning – and in the odd case some architectural controls (that are rarely, if ever, enforced). We are left to hope that the silos at City Hall figure out our larger community needs. Recreation, community facilities, parks and play grounds, library, transit and police services and up keep and improvement to our aging and failing infrastructure needs, including roads, sewer, storm water and side walks, let alone diversity of housing, safe streets, transit, cycling, pedestrian safety and main streets are largely planned in isolation from each other with nominal or no in put from our communities.
We need to have Whole Community Plans for the renewal of our community infrastructure & services to ensure we can continue to support our existing and new residents in our communities. We know how to do it. In fact we insist on all new developments on the periphery of our city having a comprehensive plan covering all these items and more before they even put a spade in the ground. These are long term plans that will provide our communities assurance our community needs are met over time.
Whole Community Plans must include:
o Restoring transit routes in our growing neighbourhoods to serve our aging and young families alike, and all others.
o Bring back library services to our communities – apart form the Central Library that serves the entire city, we only have one community library branch to serve 90,000 residents in Ward 7 – the worst service in 20 years.
o Improve community and recreation facilities to accommodate our growing communities and accessibility for all abilities. As an example, West Hillhurst Ice Arena serves 25 thousand people in its surrounding communities – communities that are expected to double in population in the next 20 years. This is already over the city average, and yet there is no plan to address this to serve the needs of Ward 7 existing, let alone new residents.
o Planning for more green space in areas with little. Many of our communities are blessed with amazing green space, such as Mount Pleasant along Confederation Park. But if you are in the SE corner of that community, there is little access to public green space. We must plan to change this, providing pocket parks for activity, green intervals and community.
o Preserve our green canopy. Require public trees to be preserved when development occurs and replaced (with non-seed bearing or cotton producing) hardy varieties when end of life occurs.
o Diversity of Housing to maintain the diversity of people in our neighborhoods as they gentrify – including seniors housing to allow people to stay in their neighborhoods as they age and more affordable housing to allow the socio-economic mix of our communities to be maintained.
o Renewal and upgrades to our basic infrastructure, such as roads, storm, sewer and flood mitigation. Our roads are often compared to country roads with all the dips, pot holes, patches and cracks. Our sidewalks are often no better, creating concerns for those with mobility issues. Storm, sewer and flood mitigation infrastructure must be upgraded to allow quality of life for residents. The constant threat of flooding in areas, such as that around Tuxedo Park, let alone Sunnyside, East Village, Eau Claire and Chinatown, is unacceptable. Quality of life starts with security of home. We must plan on doing better by our neighbours in these communities.
o We must also work with our school boards. They are struggling financially and we are lacking in the library and recreation resources that they already have. Working together, as we do elsewhere in the city, could help all of us out. This includes the potential of sharing library and recreation services in some places. Bishop O’Byrne High School in the deep south shares a public library and a YMCA recreation facility. A win win for everyone. While working with the school boards, we must also discuss repurposing our inner city schools as neighbourhood schools. Our neighbourhoods value our neighbourhood schools as a major community building block. It is completely understandable why they became specialized to ensure they remained viable in the past, but with the resurgence in neighbourhood school age children, its just as important that there be a reconsideration towards neighbourhoods schools now. To do either of these, we need to open a dialogue with the school boards that has thus far been lacking. But it is possible and I have already commenced the preliminary discussions with Trustee candidates to that end.
We know how to do this. We simply need to have someone with the political will to concentrate bringing the city resources to bear to our inner city communities. I will fight tirelessly to make this happen. Community is my passion. This is my “pet project”. I hope it is yours too.