The importance of Toronto’s tree canopy and green spaces

Excerpts from an ABCRA presentation to the City of Toronto Executive Committee, Toronto Housing Action Plan

Each Planning Report dealing with various building initiatives identifies the importance to preserve the neighbourhood tree canopy, yet the actual action to do so becomes weaker and weaker. In the Housing Action Plan 2022-2026- Priorities and Work Plan (Page 15, Aligning Objectives for Complete Communities) we now have perhaps the most honest comments – to paraphrase “we really can’t meet our housing goals without the danger of destroying the City’s tree canopy, but don’t worry we have policies in place to ensure “monetary compensation”.

Do you think that is good enough?

The report talks about complete communities and infrastructure but neglects that Council already directed action to address the green infrastructure concerns.

Given that City Council on December 2021 reaffirmed the goal of 40% Tree Canopy by 2050 to align with the City’s Transform TO Net Zero strategy, we strongly object to City Council accepting immediate loss of tree canopy and green space with no concrete strategies to add tree canopy and green space in the immediately impacted communities.

There have been multiple Motions and promises of strategies for how expansion of the City’s Tree Canopy will be achieved while still permitting aggressive infill market-based housing. Deadlines for these reports have come and gone. Examples of just 3 recent motions adopted by City Council include IE 26.6, PH 31.6, IE 30.18. (See below)

The missing Planning & Housing – Report PH31.6 – was to set up a Tree/House Working Group that was to report by Q1 2023 or earlier. This committee is not mentioned in the Housing Action Plan. Staff has said this morning that they are committed to accountability. We have asked about the process of this committee but can not get information. Is it at work? Where is their report?

Is your goal just to build more buildings or to create a livable City? Trees are an inexpensive and easy way to improve livability. You are saying the Housing Action Plan to add 285,000 units in 10 years is VITAL. Is the Net Zero Strategy NOT ALSO VITAL? Promises of vague, unspecified plans down the road to expand the City’s tree canopy are not sufficient.

This report before you today seems to boast that it is not just meeting the Provincial Governments Housing targets but exceeding them. Is it a City Council decision to exceed the building boom set by Doug Ford? Why? How about just meeting the provincial standards and doing it responsibly?

How will the city achieve a 40% tree canopy when it has made no progress in 10 years and has presented no plan for adding green space in neighbourhoods where green space and trees are being removed?

As this City’s Executive Leadership, please see that the directions our elected council give to staff are followed.

As you show a commitment to Action to build more buildings show an equal commitment to creating a livable City. More people need more trees not fewer. Ask City staff here today the status of these already requested reports.

Please pass a motion today that INSISTs that potential strategies for protecting and growing the tree canopy are brought forward for public discussion and action prior to moving forward with any more zoning changes.

Mary Helen Spence
Board Member ABC Residents Association
Member, Steering Committee FONTRA
Committed Environmentalist (and a LORAX fan)

IE26.6 – Actions to Reaffirm Toronto’s Tree Canopy Target approve Dec 15 ,2021

3. City Council request the General Manager, Parks Forestry and Recreation, in consultation with the General Manager, Transportation Services and the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, to a report back on any recommendations for enhanced enforcement of the requirement for soft landscaping on the City right-of-way and private property as set out in the City’s Zoning By-law.

PH31.6 – Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods February 15, 2022

Creating The Tree/House Working Group to prepare recommendations for City Council in 2023 or earlier to support both the City’s tree canopy and opportunities for new urban infill housing. The group is to develop and execute a community consultation plan. They were to report back in the first quarter of 2023. Where is this report? Who are the members of this Working Group? What progress have they made?

IE30.18 – Report on Pervious Planting Spaces on Private Property May 25, 2022

The General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, in consultation with the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, the Chief Building Official and Executive Director of Toronto Building, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning was to report back to a future meeting of Infrastructure and Environment Committee regarding the potential strategies to protect and enhance the City’s tree canopy and growing space, while also supporting infill housing growth in the City’s Neighbourhoods. To report back to IEC before City Council provides further action on Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods.

Photo: Ramsden Park, Shreyans Bhansali, Creative Commons NC-SA 2.0

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