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Open Letter to City Council

DUNDAS WEST BIA,  c/o 1569 Dundas St. West, Toronto, Ont., M6K 1T9, Tel. 416-534-7567 Ex 24

OPEN LETTER

To:  Councillor Adam Giambrone

        Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone

        Members of  Toronto and East York Community Council

        Members of City Council

        Members of the Dundas West Community

Re:  Rush-Hour Parking – Dundas Street West

 

Dear Councillors

After much confusion about what happened on item # TE22.16 Amendment to Parking Regulations on Dundas St. West between Bathurst and Dovercourt we were finally able to see the posting of the decision made by Toronto and East York Community Council  on Jan. 13, 2009.

We are flabbergasted to say the least by this decision.  While we firmly believe that rush-hour parking is a necessity all along Dundas including Ward 18 and 19, we cannot understand how you could vote to rescind our currently existing parking privileges effective Oct. 1, 2009 during your Nov. 18, 2008 meeting  and then shortly thereafter  vote to give these same priviledges to the neighbouring ward.

As pointed out by John Barber in his Jan. 14, 2009 Globe and Mail article “anybody who expects a simple resolution to this dispute would be wise to stick to weightier matters”.  To us this is a “weighty matter” and we are trying to figure out what to make of these contradictory decisions and the changing roles of the community council players involved.

 

To refresh everyone’s memory on this issue we hope you indulge us by reading just what has happened on this issue over the past more than 2 years:

During the September 2006 community council meeting Councillor Adam Giambrone first proposed a motion to grant us the rush-hour parking.  We spent all day at community council and then the item was deferred.

Feb. 13, 2007 this  item again came up for discussion.  We collected 948 petition signatures of patrons of Dundas Street West, most of them from members of the hard-working Portuguese construction trades in just a few locations.  We obtained 29 letters from individual merchants, letters of support from a neighbouring BIA and Mayor David Miller.  We presented maps showing that similar size streets with streetcar traffic such as Roncesvalles, College and Queen Street have as far as anyone remembers enjoyed the very parking conditions that we were asking for.  In all we submitted 54 pages of materials and an appendix with pages of petition signatures.  We again attended at community council, visited all councillors prior to the meeting and delivered information and made deputations at community council.  In spite of  vehement and vocal opposition from deputy mayor Pantalone the decision was in our favour.

Then our  item went to the March 2007 meeting of City Council.  Again we attended.  The deputy mayor referred the item back to community council for additional staff reports.

We prepared additional letters and handouts, principally showing visuals of  chronically empty storefronts in our BIA area, again visited all councillors’ offices and again made deputations at community council.  Once again during their Sept. 10, 2007 meeting community council voted to grant us the parking privileges on a one-year trial and requested that a report be made by City Transportation on the effect of this parking on local streetcar operations and also from City Economic Development on the causes of  the economic downward spiral in our area.

Finally during their Sept. 26,27, 2007 meeting City Council voted on this recommendation and granted the one-year trial period with a vote of 22 to 5.  Along with this recommendation came the institution of various left-turn prohibitions during rush-hour along Dundas.  At that point Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone was quoted in a Globe and Mail article by Jeff Gray as the decision being “hypocritical” and being “flabbergasted” and leaving that “council meeting depressed”.

During this  one-year period  our area experienced an economic upswing, we observed no problems with TTC operations,  and we even heard from TTC staff that there appeared to be no problem created by the parking.  We assumed, that since no problems had been reported to us and since the TPA was unsuccessful in securing alternative parking ( despite us having been made a priority by our councillor and a specific letter from Mayor Miller dated Feb. 12, 2007), that the present parking arrangements would easily be extended or made permanent.

Much to our surprise we learned with only days to go to the Nov. 18, 2008  community council meeting, that there was a negative report, dated  Oct. 20, 2008  from City Transportation based on a study prepared by TTC in Sept. 2008.  We again quickly mobilized, forwarded letters and materials to the councillors, had a large crowd attend the meeting and made deputations.

We had received assurance from Deputy Mayor Pantalone that he was no longer opposing our request and he was quoted in the Portuguese press as supporting similar parking privileges in his ward.

However we learned prior to this meeting that we had a much larger problem, since now our own councillor Adam Giambrone in his capacity as chairman of the TTC was now moving a motion to rescind our parking based on the TTC report.  

We managed to present  strong evidence that there were some problems with the TTC report.  It was comparing data from their CIS information system comparing similar periods of March 2006 and March 2008.  We presented evidence that March 2006 had the mildest winter in many years, while the period in March 2008 had record snowfalls that crippled all of the city’s traffic for days during the study period, yet all of the TTC delays were attributed to our rush-hour parking.  We further presented that March 2008 was a month of serious labour strive within the TTC, specific incidences of delays we observed (bunching of several streetcars during rush-hour at Lansdowne for coffee breaks – a shelter that has not been moved to the new location of the actual stop) and last but not least the fact that the left-turn prohibition signs were not installed until Sept. 2008.  Therefore the benefits derived from this part of the original motion were not reflected in this study.

The report requested from Economic Development was not tabled for this Community Council meeting.  We have seen the report and it does indicate that the lack of parking in the area is a hinderance to economic development.  We have not received any answers to our questions as to why this report was not considered. We on the other hand presented pictures and lists of new businesses that located in our BIA area during this one-year period.  Our commercial vacancy rate has dropped from 19 to 12% during this period. 

Despite our strong showing at the Nov. 18, 2008  meeting community council voted to rescind our parking effective Oct. 1, 2009.   Our own councillor  made a strong case for not supporting our position.  Deputy Mayor Pantalone said he would not oppose the request.  We wonder if the vote might have been different if he was present when it was taken, if Councillor Gordon Perks, who declared a conflict of interest in every other meeting leading up to this decision since he lives in our area had continued to do so and if our own councillor had conceded that his role as chairman of the TTC puts him at odds with the wishes of his constituents in ward 18.

On  Nov. 28, 2009  at 8am our parking committee consisting of 7 members of our board met with our councillor to try and come up with a solution.  He assured us that alternative parking solutions could be found if we worked together and that these could be presented to the April City Council meeting and that he would ask that the parking be left in place until these solutions are implemented.  He also promised to ask the TTC for a report on a different study period.

We agreed to work with the Councillor and the relevant City departments in an effort to come up with an alternative parking plan for April.  We retained the services of Chris Hardwick of &Co Architects, who is presently preparing an Avenue Study for us, to assist us and the City in this process.  We are committed to participating in these discussions, however know that finding suitable land will not be easy, since there is no vacant land and that any solutions will have a large price tag attached.  TPA had been supposedly been working on this as a priority for the past 2 years with no results.. We still do not understand why the on-street parking simply cannot be maintained, since it appears to work and would not put any additional financial strain on the City’s budget.  Furthermore parking lots would take available land out of circulation in contradiction to the preliminary findings of our marketing and avenue studies that advocate for higher residential density in our area.

Based on the agreement we reached on  Nov. 28th  Councillor Adam Giambrone obtained a deferral of our parking item during the Dec. 1 – 3, 2008  City Council meeting and asked for the item to be heard during the April 2009 council meeting.

So far so good, however we now seriously question how you could now approve this request for the newly-established BIA’s  directly East of us and still have on record that our parking will be rescinded. 

We shudder to put a price tag on what it has collectively cost our members in unpaid time, lost business opportunities and frustration to carry out this more than 2 year battle to-date, but let us assure you it is significant.  In the a December 10, 2008 article by Dave Nickle in Inside Toronto Councillor Adam Giambrone is quoted as saying “we’ve worked on this for a long time, and now the residents are realizing that we’re serious about taking this off”  We’d love to know who the “we” is since we’ve been working to retain the parking and did not realize that someone was working  for a long time to take it off. Even our former opponent, Deputy Mayor Pantalone is quoted in the same article as saying: “Those people are having a great deal of grief and uncertainty is not the best way to run a business or a business improvement area”….”and the world won’t fall apart if this parking’s allowed”

Despite of  our  grief and preoccupation with this item we have managed in our short period of existence to revitalize the Dundas-St.Clarens parkette, receive the Mayor’s Clean and Beautiful City award, create a green space on land brokered from TCHC, install banners, hold 2 successful “Samba on Dundas” street festivals,  install 4 large murals over the last 2 years, participate in running a children’s art program during last March break, create an arts centre that we spun off to 6 young artists, attract countless new businesses including 3 art galleries, commission branding, streetscaping, marketing and avenue studies, obtain grants not only from City departments, but also foundations and corporations, hold several successful fundraisers to fund our activities, attract tremendous media attention to our area.  See the Globe and Mail article by Deirdre Kelly of Nov. 22, 2008 - entitled “Dundas West: Cooler than New York” and other postings on our website  HYPERLINK http://www.dundaswestbia.ca www.dundaswestbia.ca.  What else do we have to do to be taken seriously?

In the same Jan. 14, 2009 article by John Barber, Deputy Mayor Pantalone is quoted as saying “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, “the extra parking has created a new reality on Dundas” he added  “and erasing it won’t be easy”.  In the same article  Councillor Adam Giambrone is quoted as saying “I’ve served notice publicly that we’re taking it off in April”.  So it sure sounds to us like someone is intending to kill the goose in favour of the gander.  We do realize that everyone has left themselves an out however in point 3 of the Jan. 13, 2009 decision by requesting a report should the City Council rescind the present alternative parking west of Dovercourt and “how these recommendations need to be changed to achieve consistency”.  We wonder how you plan to achieve this consistency, is it  by simply letting us retain the parking privileges now that you have recommended them in the neighbouring ward, or by taking them away from ward 19 as quickly as they got them, or maybe one could consider roving streetsigns depending of who is in support of  their constituency in any given month.  Like John Barber we are left to scratch our heads about the politics involved here.

During a Dec. 18, 2008 meeting of our parking committee with Councillor Adam Giambrone we queried why we could just not retain the on street parking until such time as the City is prepared to take it away from other areas such as “Little Italy”.  His response was that removing it from other areas is part of his agenda and it might come up as early as the April council meeting.  So we are wondering if our negative TTC stats will now be applied city-wide to threaten on-street parking everywhere.

Why is it that some councillors understand that we are trying to create a destination and that increased vitality brings with it larger numbers of people (and cars) visiting our area.  So even if a different study period  should show minor delays they may not be such a bad thing.

We therefore would like to ask you to please consider the following:

That City   Council  approve the on-street parking for our fellow BIA’s to the East in ward 19 during their February meeting

That TTC be asked to present statistics for a different period than the March vs. March period, preferably for the months of Oct. 06 vs. Oct. 08.  We were told that a whole new study would need to be done now.  However the TTC study clearly shows that this data came from their CIS system logs that monitor the passage of transit vehicles at signposts located along TTC’s streetcar routes in a database.  So if this database was able to produce a March report why can it not be used to prepare an October report? 

Given that we raised serious doubt about the results of this TTC report we ask that you not use and re-quote these negative results until they can be proven to be representative.  A re-examination of this report was asked for by Community Council and  a report for a new study period was promised to us a part of our agreement with our councillor.

That during your April City Council meeting you agree to leave our current parking conditions in place.  On-street parking is favoured by our merchants who are mainly small family stores that rely on members of  mainly the Portuguese community to make quick-stop purchases.  We have no large franchises and malls in our area.  We ask that you leave our parking in place so that we can look for long-term other solutions without a gun to our heads.  We will gladly give up our fight if and when you are prepared to take it away from other areas that have enjoyed these privileges for years.  We are prepared to take our chances on this along with Little Italy.

Don’t condemn us to going back to being cut off from the outside world for 4 hours of each business day.

Yours truly

Dundas West BIA

Sylvia Draper-Fernandez, Chair