Community Planning Board – Open House
The Centre for City Ecology partnered with the East Scarborough Storefront this past November to host a Community Planning Board Open House in the Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood. Community members gathered to celebrate ongoing local planning initiatives and to learn about the Community Planning Boards model and its role within local governance. The Open House is a first step towards a Community Planning Board pilot project in the KGO neighbourhood.
Presentations by a number of community based projects, student groups, and Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat highlighted various examples of community engagement models in Toronto and abroad, including Community Planning Boards. A range of ideas on civic engagement and community development were presented.
Ajeev Bhatia from The Community.Design.Initiative (CDI) spoke of his own experience at the Storefront, transitioning from a volunteer to an employed staff member as the community development project moves forward. CDI is a collaborative project to redesign the East Scarborough Storefront that focuses on architecture’s responsibility to engage across not only physical, but also economic, social, cultural, and environmental contexts. It connects youth with architectural mentors, creating structural connections in the community and a sense of ownership—a truly participatory architectural process.
Tower Renewal is a citywide program to drive broad environmental, social, economic, and cultural change by improving Toronto’s concrete apartment towers and the neighbourhoods that surround them. Trevor and Diane, two KGO residents involved in the Tower Renewal Project for KGO spoke about the importance of involving youth in shaping the Storefront and using 3D visualization tools like SketchUp to envision community design.
Residents Russell Woods, Paul Rouillard, and June Mbugua spoke about their experience with the TENT project over the past year. They highlighted the value of Sketch Up in allowing residents to creatively envision better built environments and innovative design ideas. June, a resident and youth volunteer who aspires to be an architect, said the TENT project helped to foster an understanding of how the community is connected and built-up over time, and a new sense of collaboration within the community. June believes that, “You don’t have to be a professional to plan for your community, but we need each others ideas it doesn’t matter if you are a youth, or a senior, we all have different levels of knowledge and when we work together we make a stronger community”.
The Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough and the Youth Friendly Initiative empower youth to participate in their community. Howard Moriah explained the role of the organization in increasing consultation and participation when designing new youth-friendly spaces. Youth develop an increased sense of ownership over the spaces they design and use, encouraging daily exposure and interaction between youth-led activities, community groups, and mentors.
UofT students Taylor Surman, Jordan Wong and Pritha Karmaker presented a working description of Community Planning Boards as a tool for civic engagement. They highlighted the neighbourhood opportunities presented by CBPs, including increased efficiency and transparency and the potential to introduce participatory budgeting. Possible challenges to implementing CBPs in Toronto were also highlighted, including barriers within levels of authority (such as the OMB) and adequate representation.
Graduate planning students from the University of Toronto presented information about the planning process in Toronto. Planning 101 outlined the roles of provincial and municipal governments, community councils, public participants, developers, and the OMB. It outlined the fundamental aspects of city planning and property development and the critical importance of community involvement.