Enbridge Gas construction on Lake Shore Boulevard near Lower Simcoe Street.

Enbridge Gas is busy digging a 4.5 kilometre gas pipeline from Cherry Street in the east to Bathurst Street in the west. The company invited the public to view their plans more than two years ago. They had three potential routes, digging open trenches either along Harbour Street, Lake Shore Boulevard or their favourite choice: Queens Quay!

YQNA urged members to write their objections to tearing up the entire length of Queens Quay, and nearly 200 did. A few YQNA members also asked to meet with Enbridge executives. They welcomed our views, and we learned that they had expected the Queens Quay bike lane would be an easy route to dig up for the pipeline. That would have caused damage to the trees and granite-paved sidewalks on this prize-winning pedestrian boulevard that Waterfront Toronto had completed a few years earlier at the cost of $130 million. Businesses and tourist activities would also have suffered.

Enbridge Gas listened and made the reasonable decision to dig the trench in Lake Shore Boulevard instead. That is now underway. This photo shows the current pipeline construction site under the Gardiner Expressway near Simcoe Street. It is not hard to imagine the damage such a large worksite would have done to Queens Quay. A similar Ontario Hydro dig on Queens Quay for new power cables was also averted, thanks to local opposition. We are fortunate to have such engaged citizens and a system that allows us to work with City agencies.

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Noise exposure limits — the NEF — are drawn by Transport Canada with the aim of protecting citizens from excessive noise. The red contours on this map are from 1990, and the blue lines from 2008. The contours continued to vary slightly over the years, but problems persist.

The Waterfront is an attractive and wonderful place to live and visit. On the minus side it has frequent noise pollution, mainly due to planes taking off from the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, commonly known as the Island Airport. Landings are less loud, but departing planes that fly low past the condo towers, parks and Harbourfront Centre have a ruinous effect on the area, which functions as cottage country for much of Toronto.

As vacation travel has revved up at this airport after COVID, so have festivals and events attracting millions of visitors to the Waterfront and the Islands. They are next to the flightpath, and many locations suffer from debilitating noise, which might be much louder than federal regulations allow. But first the problem must be identified, and that process is ongoing in meetings that include YQNA’s expert Hal Beck. It should be simple to confirm, since noise can be measured by high-end equipment or even inexpensive phone apps. But Transport Canada in Ottawa has a 90-page book of regulations on the subject that baffle even its own staff. They only accept measurements from acoustical engineers. Their aim is to keep excessive noise inside a NEF (noise exposure forecast) contour around an airport and away from residents.

The Island Airport NEF contours were drawn in 1978, neatly avoiding all development lands. At that time the Waterfront was industrial with hardly any commercial air traffic or large aircraft. Jump to today, when the Waterfront is densely populated as part of the largest urban development in North America, and industrial uses have been replaced by high-rises and high-tech companies. This new world needs a new NEF contour that protects the Waterfront from noise.

Noise is not the only problem at this airport. It still operates with heavy financial losses, although it must be self-sustaining as part of Ports Toronto’s right to exist. To keep it going, the Feds funnel our tax dollars to the airport in various ways. It is promoted as essential for Toronto, but that is not the case since the UP Express Train to Pearson Airport opened in 2015.

Even if information and complaints from residents carry little weight in this noise debate, you can satisfy yourself by measuring sound on a phone app. When a plane approaches, check out whether it tops 70 decibels. Any noise exceeding 70 dB is considered disturbing, and above 85 dB can cause harm over time. Then you will have the answers directly from the aircraft engines to your ears. Waiting for the federal bureaucratic system to sort it out could take a long time. You can also lodge a noise complaint with the Island Airport.

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New design for 200 Queens Quay West, at Harbour St. and Lower Simcoe St. Image: Diamondcorp.

What a difference a year can make!

On January 12, 2021, the City held a (virtual) community consultation meeting about this project. At that time the 8 storey parking garage, with frontage on Harbour and Lower Simcoe Streets, was going to be demolished and replaced by a 12 storey podium on much the same footprint, topped by two residential condominium towers of 41 and 71 storeys. Vehicular access was to be taken from the existing driveways serving the Waterclub complex.

Now we are learning that the developers, Diamondcorp and Lifetime Developments, have responded to input from City staff, the Waterfront Design Review Panel, and the community, to come up with a revised proposal.

As the rendering (right) shows, the idea now is for one tower towards the east end of the site. The height is 59 storeys on a 5 storey podium, yielding 1002 units and 400 sq m of commercial space close to Lower Simcoe Street. 10% of the units are still to be affordable. The green space at the intersection of Lower Simcoe and Harbour Streets is increased slightly to 500 sq m and is now intended to be a public park rather than publicly-accessible private land.

The access for parking, loading and drop-off is to be from Harbour Street. They are planning for 340 parking spots on 4 levels underground, 150 for the residents and 190 for paying customers. Parking and storage is proposed for 1003 bicycles.

A second community information meeting was held on February 9, 2022 via Webex. Click here to see a presentation by Toronto city planner Sue McAlpine on recent developments at 270 Queens Quay West.

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A beautiful winter view of Lake Ontario at our front door. Photo by Jack Gilbert

YQNA has a lot more going on than appears at our open meetings, which usually attract 150 people on Zoom. Members and guest speakers cover as many subjects as possible in two hours. But between our public meetings every two months, ideas and problems crop up and need our attention. Just a handful of people do this work. More are joining, but more are needed, and you are invited to share this exciting work with us.

What will new members in our Planning Committee find? Naturally they will gain new insights into planning, traffic, tourism, policing, lake levels, ecology, pollution, parks, boating and much more. We read proposals from developers and the City, interact with politicians and people in charge of roads and transit, and jump on urgent problems. It is rewarding to see how many important Waterfront developments we have influenced in very positive ways, often in collaboration with other civic groups. Our active members meet on Zoom in these pandemic times.

If you are new to YQNA and wonder what is going on behind the scenes, take a look at this website. By reading a few Minutes of the Meetings in the Documents section, or our letters to agencies who shape our neighbourhood, you might find something that spurs your interest. Do consider contributing your ideas and time, and jump onboard by writing to [email protected]. YQNA attracts residents who want to ensure that our neighbourhood remains the most desirable anywhere. It is an extra bonus that our volunteers always have a good time together.

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Is YQNA Political?

The Simcoe WaveDeck on Queens Quay West. Photo: Waterfront Toronto

This is a good time to make YQNA’s role clear as the neighbourhood association of the Central Waterfront. Since we began in 2003, we have had the same mandate — to give voice to people who live and work here, so they can engage in the fast-moving developments. Everybody is welcome. 

YQNA has worked with over 40 organizations, such as City departments, Waterfront Toronto, Harbourfront Centre, developers, ecologists, planners, architects, law firms, businesses, and we entered successful protests and lawsuits to protect the Waterfront. 

As a public and impartial service, YQNA has hosted many all-candidates meetings over the years to help residents cast their vote. After election, we have worked closely with local politicians from all levels of government, because they are essential for us to achieve our goals. Information flows between us. The municipal, provincial and federal politicians attend all YQNA’s public meetings to answer questions and report on developments. Yes, we appreciate them as our allies regardless of their political stripe.

Ergo, the answer to the headline is NO. 

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