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500 units, 7 spots: Revisit visitor parking rules, Toronto councillors urge

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In the Parkway Forest pocket of North York, a row of well-kept three-storey townhomes is slated to be demolished, making room for a higher-density residential tower.

“This is going to be a 35-storey building,” Don Valley North Councillor Shelley Carroll explained Wednesday.

The problem, Carroll says, is that for the more than 300 new units that are set to be built, there will only be five visitor parking spots.

“Development applications keep right on coming in, and they're all going for the least possible amounts in terms of parking requirements,” she said.

One ward west, a 44-storey mixed-use condo and retail building will soon sprout out of the now-gas station site on the southwest corner of Bayview Ave. and Sheppard Ave. W. More than 500 units were proposed for the project – but just seven visitor parking spots.

Willowdale Councillor Lily Cheng was able to successfully negotiate an additional seven spots, according to Cheng, but there is growing concern among some of Toronto’s suburban councillors that valuable visitor parking outside of the core is disappearing as new developments take hold – presenting a mounting challenge to condo-dwellers who need vehicle space for drop-offs, deliveries – and plainly, visitors.

“My friends came here, and they don't have any visitor parking [here] to park anywhere,” resident Anil Kambally said of his Don Valley North condo. “So they go to the Fairview Mall, and they park their car, and they'll come here.”

“While owners choose to purchase a unit with or without a parking spot, they cannot choose whether friends and family live near enough to transit to visit without the use of a car,” Cheng wrote in a motion to council, arguing that there are fewer parking lots and street parking options outside the core for visitors coming by car.

Cheng, Scarborough councillor Jennifer McKelvie, and Carroll are now calling on senior planning staff to update the city’s parking strategy for the suburbs.

In 2021, Toronto City Council amended the city’s zoning bylaw to remove most requirements for new developments to provide a minimum amount of parking on site, with reduced visitor parking requirements connected to distance to higher-order transit, among other factors.

“We actually sounded the alarm back when the parking zoning bylaw changed a couple of years back,” Carroll said. “But now we're actually seeing the applications that, according to that new bylaw, bring entirely too few parking spots and in particular, visitor parking spots.”

Further complicating the parking push is Bill 185, provincial legislation that limits the ability of municipalities to require a certain number of parking spots in residential developments – designed to spur the construction of more homes amid a housing crisis.

The reduced requirement for resident parking is not a concern, Carroll said, as more and more Torontonians function without their own vehicles. But they still require a “support network” of people with cars, she argues – and visitor spots should continue to be available.

Planning staff will consider the need as part of their border review of zoning requirements, Mayor Olivia Chow said Wednesday.

“It really is a complex issue. It's not just about visitor parking, it’s parking in general – how close to public transit? How tall is the building? There's many elements involved,” Chow said. “So, we'll wait for the staff to come up with some very scientific based-recommendations.”

“We are really adamant that we have to hear about this this year,” said Carroll, who said she is currently negotiating visitor parking on 16 active development applications in her ward alone."

“Time’s a wasting.”

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