Councillors aim to spread overnight permit parking to almost all local downtown roads

Downtown city councillors are a step closer to bringing overnight permit parking to almost every local road in their jurisdictions, but residents on some streets aren't so sure they want it.

Arterial roads would be exempt, as would some streets that cannot have overnight parking because they're too narrow.

But every other street would be fair game, staff say. That's a scenario that doesn't sit well with people like Sydney Reimer.

"We're a historic road on a Discovery Walk," the Riverside Drive resident told CBC Toronto.

"We think that just adding cars to the environment takes away from our historic character and probably would dissuade people from coming down here, cycling and walking the way they currently do." 

The idea is being driven by Toronto and East York Community Council, which began the process of spreading permit parking right across their district several years ago.

Right now, about 60 per cent of all eligible streets in the district offer overnight permitted parking. The plan to spread overnight parking would include about 235 more kilometres of roadway, or about 21,000 additional parking spaces.

A staff report indicates that spreading overnight permit parking to almost all downtown roads could generate about $1.7 million annually. Monthly parking permits range in price from about $20 a month to $60.

The city has a blanket rule that states no one is allowed to park on an unpermitted public road for more than three hours. But some streets are rarely patrolled, which means their residents are allowed free overnight parking — unofficially.

That, some councillors argued at the Dec. 3 community council meeting, is unfair.

Mike Smee/CBC

But plenty of locals on streets that don't currently have overnight permit parking are dead set against the idea of introducing it.

At the Dec. 3 meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council, about half a dozen residents lined up to speak out against the plan. Scores more registered their displeasure through emails.

But Coun. Gord Perks, whose Ward 4 includes Riverside Drive, said he's also hearing from supporters.

"Absolutely, I've had a lot of people in the High Park neighbourhoods come to me and say, 'I'm sick and tired of getting tickets. I'm sick and tired that my children can't visit me overnight without getting tickets. I'm sick and tired of workers showing up early in the morning and getting tickets. I can't find anywhere to park.'"

Next week, on the advice of Perks and other councillors who sit on the Toronto and East York Community Council, city council will be asked to temporarily amend an existing bylaw so that polling of residents won't be necessary to introduce overnight parking on their streets.

Beaches-East York and Toronto St. Paul's are the only downtown wards that aren't included in the motion.

Bypassing polls and petitions is what has Reimer, and others who spoke at the Dec. 3 community council meeting, upset.

"We want to have a voice and be part of the process," she said, "and that's being denied and that I think is wrong." 

Mike Smee/CBC

In any event, Perks said the city is under no obligation to abide by the outcome of neighbourhood polls.

"We never need to do petitions and polling. That's an option," he said. "At the end of the day, the city writes the process on how permit parking gets put in place."

In the past, individual councillors have determined which streets within their wards should have permitted parking, Perks said last week. Those decisions were determined based on polling of local residents. But Perks said that way of making decisions is not carved in stone.

"Council decides how permit parking works. We can do it any way we want," he said

"The poll doesn't determine what city council will do. It's still up to city council."

More than 20 meetings

Perks said he's held more than 20 meetings with neighbourhood representatives.

"People have expressed their views," he said.

"I'm hearing a variety of things. I'm hearing an awful lot of people who are afraid this means strangers will come park in their neighbourhood, which isn't possible because you can't get a permit in a zone you don't live in."

And he denied that some zones are so large that they include multiple neighbourhoods.

He said if council votes to move ahead with the expansion, it could be six months to a year before the plan is implemented district-wide.

City staff are in the midst of a broader probe into road use city wide, and that report could eventually include a look at the feasibility of making overnight permit parking the rule Toronto-wide, Perks said, a concept that he would back.

"If you want to park your car, anywhere in the City of Toronto, for more than three hours, it should be on a permit parking system."