The City of Toronto is currently reviewing its Official Plan, which is a city planning document that acts as a kind of master guide for land user matters. It is a pretty important document in that it dictates, among other things, what kind of development should go where. One way that it is often explained is that our OP is the “vision”, whereas our zoning by-laws are the “precision.”
This update will be completed by next summer. Why? Because the Province of Ontario said so. (That’s how things work around here. I think cities should have more power.)
Toronto is expected to grow by more than 700,000 people and add some 450,000 jobs by 2051. Where these people and jobs will be accommodated is a big part of the exercise here.
As part of this review, the City of Toronto published this Story Map. It is pretty neat. It looks at how the city has grown over the years (the above image is Toronto’s 1943 Master Plan). It explains a little bit about how planning works. And it has a bunch of stats on how people live and work in the city. I just used it to confirm my hunch that there are exactly zero single-family homes in my neighborhood.
Looking at the above map from 1943, it is, of course, interesting to see how much the city has grown. But it also interesting to note that many of the neighborhoods that now form part of the city were just “New Residential Areas with Prospective Populations.” They were colors and numbers on a map in areas that had yet to be built out by developers.
When I see this, I can’t help but wonder what the narrative was like at the time with respect to these new developments. Were people upset? Were people happy? Did people even notice what was happening on the edges of their city? Because sprawl, and that’s what this was, is quite different from intensification.
Our focus today is on the latter. It is about building up as opposed to out. There’s no more room for yellow shaded areas with numbers. This means that we will end up using our land and other resources more efficiently, but it also presents a whole host of issues. Change is hard. Intensification is hard. Part of the job of this document is to navigate some of these challenges.
If you’d like to get engaged with the city’s Official Plan review, head over here.