We catch up with T.O.’s bold­est bu­reau­crat, Jen­nifer Keesmaat, the city’s chief planner, for a frank dis­cus­sion on hous­ing and tran­sit

Chief planner Jen­nifer Keesmaat is not with­out her crit­ics, but her push to man­date af­ford­able hous­ing units in res­i­den­tial projects could spillover to the 905

Richmond Hill Post - - Table of Contents - by Jon Sufrin

Toronto’s chief city planner Jen­nifer Keesmaat is shak­ing things up at city hall. She has called for the re­moval of the Gar­diner Expressway’s east­ern por­tion — in di­rect de­fi­ance of the mayor — and she is push­ing for a walk­a­ble, bik­able city with in­te­grated tran­sit. Now, the prov­ince is set to green-light a cause she has long cham­pi­oned: in­clu­sion­ary zon­ing, which would man­date af­ford­able hous­ing in new res­i­den­tial projects. We caught up with her to talk about hous­ing, tran­sit and win­ter cy­cling. The me­dia de­scribes you as a “trou­ble­maker,” “loud­mouth,” “out­spo­ken.” Why are peo­ple sur­prised that you have opin­ions? You tell me. I think it’s the me­dia creat­ing some al­lure. Is the chief city planner some­one who is tra­di­tion­ally not out­spo­ken? I’ve ap­proached the role in this way be­cause I be­lieve that a city of this scale needs to have a ro­bust pub­lic di­a­logue about change. And I think that is quite com­mon in large cities, but maybe it’s new to Toronto.

If it were a man in the po­si­tion, it’s doubt­ful there would be an em­pha­sis on the fact that he had opin­ions.

Peo­ple have said about me, “She’s en­ti­tled to her opinion.” What’s that about? It’s a pro­fes­sional opinion. I couldn’t imag­ine that be­ing said about one of my male coun­ter­parts. It did feel like there was some­thing some­what gen­dered about that. How will in­clu­sion­ary zon­ing look in ef­fect? Will we see af­ford­able hous­ing in all ar­eas? That is the in­ten­tion, that all new projects over a cer­tain thresh­old would be re­quired to pro­vide a per­cent­age of af­ford­able hous­ing. It seems that could be an is­sue for those who don’t want that kind of hous­ing in their neigh­bour­hood. It ab­so­lutely could. But in most in­stances where we have af­ford­able hous­ing in Toronto, it hasn’t re­ally been a prob­lem. It’s im­por­tant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate this

from so­cial hous­ing, which is not what we’re talk­ing about. Why is it im­por­tant to have af­ford­able hous­ing spread across the city? You need a di­ver­sity of em­ploy­ment types in any city. You need teach­ers and nurses, for ex­am­ple, and those pro­fes­sion­als are be­ing pushed out of the fab­ric of the city. It’s very dif­fi­cult to af­ford a home on a

teacher’s salary. Let’s talk tran­sit. The city has been flip-flop­ping on a plan for decades. How close are we to see­ing some­thing that will ac­tu­ally stick? I think we’re re­ally close. We’ve been shift­ing the di­a­logue away from ad­vanc­ing one project at a time, which tends to hap­pen in a politi­cized con­text. We are look­ing at how we can add a va­ri­ety of in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments: bus rapid tran­sit, LRT and sub­ways, where sub­ways make sense. That’s very dif­fer­ent be­cause in the last ad­min­is­tra­tion it was al­ways a very po­lar­ized dis­cus­sion. We’re now hav­ing an ev­i­dence-based con­ver­sa­tion. How dif­fi­cult is it to plan cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture in light of Toronto’s win­ter? It’s funny that you ask that af­ter the win­ter we just had. We had one of the long­est cy­cling sea­sons — nine months. Nine out of 12 ain’t bad. This win­ter is prob­a­bly more the norm than the anom­aly.

Do you cy­cle dur­ing the win­ter?

I don’t. Part of that is be­cause my route to city hall does not have a cy­cling lane. I also can’t get my head around hav­ing to put on that much gear.

A re­cent Globe and Mail ar­ti­cle called for an end to down­town street park­ing. What do you make of that idea? I think it’s prob­a­bly too soon for that, but I don’t think it’s too far off. When you get to cer­tain vol­umes of pedes­tri­ans, and you start to in­crease tran­sit ac­cess, it be­comes very un­de­sir­able to drive down­town. Just think of Lon­don or Paris or New York. You’re crazy to drive your car in those cities.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.