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Laneway house notebook (7)

Public input for HOUSING PLAN

From City News March 29, 2019

From the city website: 10-year housing plan

April 9, 2019, email to housingplan@toronto.ca

I'm part of an informal neighbourhood group near Dufferin and Bloor that's been talking about laneway housing. Despite the great hopes for intensifying this neighbourhood (and also allowing old people to stay in what used to be called "granny flats") it turns out that -- on my block -- only 2 of the 55 houses (most with very big backyards and wide laneways) can get a laneway house building permit. This is not because of the zoning nor the building code nor the laneway bylaw, but because the fire prevention chief has decided to make extra-special fire-services access requirements that are more stringent that those applying to our houses.

Please let me know if this problem will be discussable at the April 20 Metro Hall housing issues meeting.

April 10, 2019, response from Sherri, cc to Mercedeh.Madani@toronto.ca from housingplan:

Thank you for this important input. This issue will not be specifically addressed in the formal presentation part of the City consultation at Metro Hall on April 30th, however in the various stations you and your neighbours are more than welcome to raise this and other barriers that you are encountering to intensify and provide alternative housing options in your neighbourhood. All of the comments will be captured and be part of our input into the plan.

I would encourage you and your informal group to perhaps also send us an email to this address if you want to provide more details on barriers you are encountering. It is important to hear of all of the road blocks residents are encountering and take it back to try and rectify them at the City.


April 24, 2019 to Graig Uens and George Pantazis, Planners with the Toronto City Planning Division

I just got your email notification of the May 1 Laneway Suites meeting. Thank you. I can't go, but as you know I am indeed very interested in following this issue, and am following it actively in the neighbourhood as well. On my block of Havelock, of 54 properties, only 2 are eligible to apply for a permit under the current fire services rules. We have a wide laneway and very long properties, but for now our backyards must remain as they are.

You may be aware that I have applied through FOI to get the correspondence and meeting reports reflecting the discussion of the fire issues. There is apparently a considerable cost associated with finding this information, so we may have to crowd-fund for it, perhaps with a little help from social media and the Star. The fire safety rules need public discussion because they have some contradictions.

My FOI contact gave my email to Division chief Derek Collins, thinking it might be better for him to speak to me directly, but he has not followed up.

The little charitable organization I run, CELOS, has public space as its mandate and considers laneways as public space. So I am documenting the laneway house process on a section of our website. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for some adjustments to be made that don't penalize people living in the older downtown neighbourhoods.

I assume that the May 1 meeting is about expanding the Toronto/EY rules into Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. I would appreciate being kept informed.


May 8, 2019, to Division Fire Chief Derek Collins

Dear Chief Collins,

this is the outline I said I would send you, for discussion on Friday if sometime between 9.30 and noon or after 4 works for you, let me know:

1. SPACE between houses
The fire prevention chief (Babcock) said:
-- for a laneway house permit, there must be a minimum 1 meter (or 900 cm?) space between the houses, on the property
- if there is a garage fire, firefighters will go through the house if nec. to reach the garage
-- house doors are 84 cm. wide
-- but firefighters can't go through the house if there's a laneway suite because if there's damage to the main house in transit, there will be claims against the city
-- FOI says they have no records of such claims (so now I've asked FOI for records of ALL claims for house damage by fire services)
-- this is a problem specifically for older districts -- it looks like extra fire access space was provided every two semis -- what was formerly accepted is not acceptable now

2. LANEWAYS
-- Fire chief says laneways don't count as emergency access because they're not roads
-- "Laneway Project" head says fire chief told them that no obstructions are allowed because laneways are for emergency access
-- only properties on laneways are eligible for laneway permit
-- Fire chief says there may be cars parked in the laneways, blocking emergency access
-- acknowledges that the same is often true on narrow city streets, but "that's different"

3. MATERIALS
-- a laneway house is small and built according to the new OBC -- good wiring and low combustible -- inspected

4. INTENT OF LAW
the advantage of "granny flats" vs. the disadvantage of claims against the city

5. LOCAL COOPERATION
fire services ought to work with individual neighbourhoods to address the issues: start with "fire drills"

 

May 15, 2019

From: Jutta Mason <juttamason@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, May 15, 2019 at 10:21 AM
Subject: Re: FOI Request # 2019-00618 (Re 1 Metre fire access requirement
To: Kerry-Ann Sween <Kerry-Ann.Sween@toronto.ca>
Cc: Derek Collins <Derek.Collins@toronto.ca>

Hi Kerri-Ann,
District chief Derek Collins and I were able to have a phone conversation last Friday May 10. It gave me more of a sense of the context of the laneway fire safety discussions and it ended with a possibility of moving the subject away from "what if" to "let's see how it might work in practice." Derek said he would talk to the deputy fire chief and I hope to talk to the local fire captain today, about doing a neighbourhood "laneway fire drill."

Direct contact done in good faith is more fun, any day, than an FOI request that ends up in a fundraising campaign. So please close my request -- if the door shuts on the conversation again I'll send you a new request, but for now I'm hopeful.

Thanks for brokering this connection!


Later that day:

From: Jutta Mason <juttamason@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, May 15, 2019 at 4:12 PM
Subject: no local laneway/fire services conversation without an order
To: Derek Collins <Derek.Collins@toronto.ca>

Hi again Derek,
I had a discouraging time when I went by the Dufferin /Dupont fire station to talk to fire captain Mike Walsh today. I wanted to talk to him about our idea of having them come and do a show-and-tell about emergency laneway access.

He did not want to talk to me about anything until he gets the okay (to even just talk) from higher up. He did not appear to know who you are (unless I misunderstood). I guess there are many thousands of people working for Fire Services?

He also said he had never heard of doing anything like this -- and perhaps thinks it's dumb (didn't say so explicitly). But solving the problem of how we can have more housing in this part of the city is not dumb.

So please let me know how this can proceed. My neighbours are enthusiastic. I think it would be excellent if the following could happen, maybe early on a June weekday evening when the light lasts a long time and people are home from work and school:

1. a firetruck comes to the fire hydrant two doors up from me and connects its hose

2. the crew takes the hose through a walkway between two houses, to a garage, tests the water pressure if desired

3. the crew returns the hose to the street and then takes it through the front door and out the back door of our house (I am willing), to the garage, so we can all see how that works

4. the engine is driven down the laneway from Bloor Street and then the hose is connected to the street hydrant via the walkway between two houses.

All of this needs to be done slowly enough that any problems/blocks can be charted, plus any safety risks for fire fighters. I guess that's the "education" part you mentioned.

In actual fact, the fire captain told me they did try out taking both the arial truck and the other kind of truck down our laneway, some months back. They had no problem getting in from Bloor but they had to back out because of a 90-degree turn at the south end of the laneway. Not uncommon in this part of the city, and I guess fire trucks can reverse.

I was unaware until today that this had been tried.

What's the best way to help make this fire services visit happen? Or even for the conversation to start?


No response


Forwarded message ---------
June 10,2019

From: Jutta Mason <juttamason@gmail.com> Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 3:59 PM Subject: follow-up re laneway housing "fire drill" To: Derek Collins <Derek.Collins@toronto.ca> Cc: (to 24 neighbours)

Dear Chief Collins,
it is now one month since we spoke on the phone (May 10) about my request to have a neighbourhood "fire drill" in relation to emergency access to laneway houses. You said you would check with the deputy fire chief. I have not heard back from you since then. I sent you one follow-up email with a list of how this fire drill could be structured, but did not hear back.

Here are my suggestions again:
My neighbours are very interested. I think it would be excellent if the following could happen, maybe early on a June weekday evening when the light lasts a long time and people are home from work and school, to come and watch:
1. a firetruck comes to the fire hydrant two doors up from 242 Havelock and connects its hose
2. the crew takes the hose through a standard walkway between two houses, to a garage, tests the water pressure if desired
3. the crew returns the hose to the street and then takes it through the front door and out the back door of our house (242 Havelock -- I am willing), to the garage, so we can all see how your current garage-fire procedure works
4. the engine is driven down the laneway from Bloor Street and then the hose is connected to the street hydrant via the walkway between two houses.

All of this needs to be done so that any problems/blocks can be charted on the basis of actual experience, including any safety risks for fire fighters. That's the "education" part.

In actual fact, the fire captain of the nearest fire station told me they did try out taking both the aerial truck and the other kind of truck down our laneway, some months back. They had no problem getting in from Bloor but they had to back out because of a 90-degree turn at the south end of the laneway. Not uncommon in this part of the city, and fire trucks can reverse.

Please let me know where this request is at.


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