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Note: although the FIPPA legislation requires a response within 30 days, the City of Toronto Corporate Access Division is understaffed and they cannot necessarily meet the timeline, even for simple questions.
Records Requested: Please provide all correspondence, all emails and related communications, all memoranda, all relevant sections of minutes of meetings, and all individual staff notes relating to the Fire Prevention office's decision to require a minimum 1-metre right-of-way walkway between houses, for property owners who wish to build a laneway house or add a legal secondary suite with a side door, in the Toronto/East York (TEY) section of the city. Please also provide all reports and relevant fire incident analyses that the Fire Prevention office used to make the 1-meter fire access requirement.
City Division (optional): Fire Services
Corporate Access (FOI)
Subject: FOI Request # 2019-00618 (Re 1 Metre fire access requirement
Dear Ms. Sween,
Thank you for your response. Please ask Fire Services to prepare their best estimate of what they have to search and how much it would cost.
Perhaps CELOS could put out a call for crowd funding to pay for this, in partnership with other interested groups, perhaps with some help from media. Alternatively, I may decide to write to the appropriate city council committee chair(s) or the mayor and ask her/him if they are willing to direct Fire Services to work with City Planning and Building to make a detailed report on the matter.
Re contacting them directly: In January I went to see Fire Prevention Chief Doug Babcock and afterwards asked him for a more specific detailing of his reasoning, but he merely suggested I contact an architect. So that avenue did not work.
CELOS is researching the issue on behalf of "grannies" like myself and others who want to stay in our neighbourhoods. Accessible housing and the AODA are also at issue. The problem is serious: on our block near Dufferin and Bloor there are 54 lots and only 2 of them are eligible for a laneway house building permit, despite the new bylaw.
I look forward to receiving the detailed cost estimate, thank you.
I wrote to the chief but for a long time there was no answer, some back and forth with Ms.Sween and the chief, then late in the evening of May 7, again an offer to connect from Chief Collins.
From: Jutta Mason <email@example.com>
Subject: Issues for FOI/discussion/resolution
To: Derek Collins <Derek.Collins@toronto.ca>
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 (Doug 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
-- 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"
Link for garage fires, from Open Data: http://www.celos.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=Neighbourhoods.GarageFires
Note: the conversation took place, with an undertaking to follow up with a specific request for Fire services to hold a "fire drill" on one block of Havelock St., to check what kinds of blocks might exist.
But there was no follow up, despite several requests. Apparently Chief Collins was moved to a different job.
*Records Requested*: Please provide all claim numbers, thumbnail descriptions of circumstances, and settlement amounts against Fire Services and/or the City of Toronto, for fire incidents where firefighters accessed a behind-the-house or behind-a-neighboring-house garage or adjacent fire by going through a main house, and a damage claim was filed for damage to the house. Please specify when the claimant was an insurance company and when s/he was the home-owner. I would like this information from 2011 to the most recent data available.
City Division (optional): Fire Services?
Date From (optional): 01-Jan-2011
Records requested: Please provide all claim numbers, thumbnail descriptions of circumstances, and settlement amounts against Fire Services and/or the City of Toronto, for fire incidents claiming damage to property by Fire Services staff. Please include when the claimant was an insurance company and when s/he was the home-owner. I would like this information from 2011 to the most recent data available.
City Division (optional): Fire Services? Or Risk Management?
Date From (optional): 01-Jan-2011
Date To (optional): 01-Feb-2019
FOI request #2019 - 00951.
Response: FOI details
Number of insurance claims against Fire Services for property damage during fire and medical calls, 2011 to 2018 (Freedom of Information -- FOI): 44.
Number that are listed as $0 payout: 22.
Total cost of claims: $42,164.
Records Requested: Please send me an electronic copy of a "memorandum of understanding" between Toronto Buildings and Toronto Fire regarding Laneway houses. This agreement was specifically referenced by a Fire Protection staff at the Dec.12 2019 Building Code Commission hearing. The Fire staff said that I need to go through FOI to get a copy.
The MOU was released through Freedom of Information. The document comes in two versions, dated Oct.2, 2017 and revised on October 31, 2019: here
Records Requested*: Please send me, electronically, any reports and relevant fire incident analyses that the Fire Prevention office used to make the 1-meter (distance between houses) fire access requirement.
City Division (optional): Fire Services
Response (2019 -- 02704) arrived, in paper form. My question had been restated as:
Two amails sent to FOI (Thelia-Lee.Cole@toronto.ca) (1) asking for an electronic copy and (2) asking why my question had been restated.
Called Ms.Cole and found out that the response was unintentionally not to my question. She said that and the original question (looking for actual data) will now be resubmitted to Fire Services.
This request was problematic because it was misunderstood. See follow-up correspondence
Records Requested Please send me (electronically) (1) the number of laneway house building permits issued by Toronto Buildings between the passage of the laneway house bylaw and the present AND (2) the number of laneway house permit applications currently in the queue.
City Division (optional): Toronto Buildings
Response (dated Jan.24, 2020):
1. 33 permits issued between Aug.1, 2018 and Dec.20, 2019
2. 11 permits issuance pending as of December 20, 2019
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