Approximately four years ago Toronto approved construction of an apartment building on a large property in a residential area provided
- the apartments were occupied by seniors;
- the building could include a place of worship and community spaces – necessary to override restrictions in the zoning by law.
A developer acquired the property and sought permission to build a luxury apartment building with characteristics similar to the seniors building. The City Planning Department approved the luxury apartment and supported removal of the seniors occupancy requirement and the community spaces option.
The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement applicable to planning decisions was amended in 2014 to require planners to take into account the effects of climate change. Yet the City Planning’s approval said nothing about climate change. We considered that this approval was given without due consideration of the issue. So we were prepared to fight the approval before the Ontario Municipal Board.
Any apartment building on this property will be there for many decades. Over those years Toronto will experience more extreme weather events because of climate change. Heat waves will become more frequent, hotter and of longer duration – all of which will be magnified by the urban heat-island effect.
The Toronto Medical Officer of Health has warned that seniors are vulnerable to extreme heat. An apartment building dedicated to seniors would facilitate assistance to this vulnerable group during heat waves. Community spaces in the residence can be used so that other seniors in less protective accommodation are given care and assistance.
Infrastructure to reduce future risks to seniors is a public health and safety objective, as contemplated by the Provincial Policy Statement. One only has to think of the failures of public health infrastructure in other cities as a result of unexpected heat waves: Paris in 2003 and Chicago in 1997.
There is a happy ending to this narrative. The City of Toronto intends to purchase the property, which will be dedicated to public purposes. Thanks to Councillor Jaye Robinson for her considerable efforts to resolve this long running battle. Her intervention has helped preserve the Bedford Park, Ranleigh and Bowood neighbourhoods.
For more on health issues read:
Climate Change and Public Health (Dr. Georgina Wilcock)
Our final thought for today.
“When we started at For Our Grandchildren, we were working For Our Grandchildren, but now, the time has come to shift gears and to work With Our Grandchildren, and to be ready to pass the torch to our children so that the war can be won By Our Grandchildren.”