The need to amend Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 918, to accommodate front-yard parking pads sought for the purpose of EV charging: An Open Letter to the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory
Dear Mayor Tory,
I am writing today to express concern regarding how Chapter 918 of Toronto's Municipal Code is being used to suppress the uptake of electric vehicles in the City of Toronto.
In the C of A TEY District public hearing held on July 31, 2019 (Panel B), the Committee of Adjustment heard an application to seek a variance to Chapter 918, which prohibits front-yard parking pads in Zones 1 and 2 of the City of Toronto. The variance was sought to allow a household to charge an electric car on their property, which they could not possibly do without a parking pad on their property. Sadly, two of the three committee members failed to place this motion into a social context, preferring to view it merely as a personal decision, which they intimated could be motivated by convenience and/or the desire to increase the resident's property value. None of the statements presented by the two committee members opposed to the motion acknowledged the social context of this issue. One member of the committee asked, "What incredible piece of information are we missing?" Another member said, "We zone for the property, not for the people."
What both of these counsellors failed to recognize is that a motion to seek a variance in order to instal EV charging infrastructure is indeed a zoning issue associated with property, not just the "people" who live at a given address. In other words, this is not merely a personal preference associated with an individual property owner... the swift uptake of electric vehicles is indeed an issue of great public interest.
All Toronto residents face constant and relentless negative externalities associated with a high concentration of internal combustion vehicles within the city. These externalities range from noise pollution, to air quality, to climate change. All of these issues are recognized by the City of Toronto, yet the TEY Committee of Adjustment failed to acknowledge these larger social issues when it comes to seeking variances from the prohibition against front-yard parking pads imposed by Chapter 918. Quite frankly, there is obvious social benefit associated with replacing a gas car with an EV in a city like Toronto, and this benefit should be recognized by the Committee of Adjustment.
As you can well imagine, the incredible concentration of gas-burning vehicles in a city like Toronto poses a tremendous health impact on the city's residents. To quote the Toronto Public Health's own study, "Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources." The report goes on to say that, "Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year, or about 20% of all premature deaths and 30% of all hospitalizations due to air pollution" (Page 2, Toronto Public Health. Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update. Technical Report. April 2014). The report goes on to clarify that, "When only pollutants emitted within Toronto's boundaries are considered, the Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update 3 proportions of premature deaths and hospitalizations attributable to traffic are 42% and 55%, respectively" (Page s 2-3, Toronto Public Health. Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update. Technical Report. April 2014).
Of course, these findings do not even address the far greater concerns and costs associated with climate change. The costs of climate change to the City of Toronto will easily reach billions of dollars each year, and your own Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously approved approved a recent motion to explore legal actions against oil companies in order to seek compensation for the costs of climate change incurred by the City of Toronto.
I mention these facts in an effort to put the enforcement of Chapter 918 into context. Namely, the idea that the moratorium for the provision of front-yard parking must now be recognized as an impediment to the uptake of electric vehicles. This is because EVs are charged at home, usually overnight; they cannot be practically charged for daily use off property at public charging stations. Moreover, the uptake of electric vehicles is no longer just a personal issue: EV charging is a critical aspect of society's response to climate change. Thus, EV charging is indeed a social issue - not merely a "personal" preference or circumstance.
On July 21, 2019, twenty-four neighbours from Ward 14 came out to the Committee of Adjustment meeting to show their support of the motion to allow the variation to permit a parking pad on the property in question. Moreover, these neighbours clarified that they were not there because they simply wanted to do the same thing. Rather, they recognized and supported the need for residential EV charging.
I know that you personally recognize climate change and that you support Toronto's TransformTO climate action change plan, so I am hoping you will direct your city counsellors and Committee of Adjustment members to recognize that the need to instal home EV chargers, as well as any associated parking pads that may be required to accommodate home EV charging, is far more than just a personal circumstance or preference. Climate change and air pollution are both very real (and very expensive) social issues that are currently impacting the City of Toronto and its residents.
I hope that you do indeed appreciate the very real threats that climate change and air pollution pose to the City of Toronto and its residents, and that you will act swiftly to direct your city counsellors and Committee of Adjustment members to recognize EV charging as a cogent reason to allow variances to the Chapter 918 prohibition against front-yard parking pads in all residential zones within the City of Toronto.
Yours in the environment,
On a related note, I want to point out that there are now many forms of permeable concrete (aka porous concrete, no-fines concrete, gap-graded concrete, enhanced-porosity concrete) that can quickly absorb rainwater and avoid the problem of stormwater runoff. I might suggest that all positive responses to variances sought under Chapter 918 be granted under the condition that such materials be used for the surfacing of front-yard parking pads in the City of Toronto.
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When it comes to the environment, we are all neighbours.