June 17, 2023

One Step Backwards With Kensington Market

This week saw some good news with the approval of the Bloor West Complete Street Extension to Six Points. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Kensington Market. The City of Toronto announced that the Toronto & East York Community Council would be debating the Kensington Safe Streets project at their June 22, 2023 meeting. Upon reviewing the final report, it amounts to nothing short of a betrayal to those Torontonians who had been calling for a car-free market for years (if not decades). Let’s recap what was previously proposed and what has been recommended in the final report.

All graphics used in this post are from the City of Toronto

During the third public consultation period in April and May, the City of Toronto presented a design option that would create two pedestrian-only blocks and adjacent shared streets for laneway access which would have eliminated thru traffic on Augusta Avenue and Baldwin Street. I had argued at the time it was a huge improvement over previous proposals which did too little to satisfy the long-term push to make Kensington Market a car-free zone.

Despite the proposal being supported by 90% of respondents – including 85% who said “very supportive” – city staff threw out this design and would instead narrow all streets to six metres and keep the status quo of allowing thru traffic in the neighbourhood.

One reason they claimed was 36% of those who live, work, or own property within the affected area opposed the project; including 28% who were strongly opposed. Under the strongly opposed (or very unsupportive) category, the City stated that number included “many of the long term market business operators and community organizers”. Even so, 55% of locals supported the project including 38% who were very supportive. I have seen city staff recommend certain projects such as the Bloor West extension despite even levels of support among local residents such as in The Kingsway.

The focus on pedestrianization would instead be proposed as a pilot project with further public consultation needed in the first half of 2024. Even though I already voted for Olivia Chow during the advance polls, I can see mayoral candidate Brad Bradford’s line of “less talk more action” being warranted in this case. Especially given how long the idea of pedestrianizing the neighbourhood had been floating around. The use of accessible rolled curbs and 20 km/h speed limits would also be used on those streets.

While I maintain respect for city staff for the design and consultation work that goes into these projects, there will always be a few times where we will disagree with their recommendations and that includes this Kensington Market proposal. I call on those who support a pedestrian friendly Kensington Market to e-mail the Toronto & East York Community Council by Wednesday, June 21 at 4:30 PM to reject the staff recommendation and instead, adopt the previous well-received proposal. (instructions below) Surely there could be ways for the City to work with long-term residents and business owners to work on mitigating some of their concerns?


TO: teycc@toronto.ca
CC: councillor_perks@toronto.ca; councillor_bravo@toronto.ca; councillor_malik@toronto.ca; councillor_saxe@toronto.ca; councillor_matlow@toronto.ca; councillor_moise@toronto.ca; councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca; councillor_bradford@toronto.ca
Subject: TE6.54 (Kensington Market Safe Streets Implementation)

1 comment:

  1. I'm a resident of the market for over 25 years, no one from the city consulted me, nor do any of my neighbours seem to have been consulted in the surveys you reference. Pedestrianizing the market is a uniquely bad idea. The businesses that make the market special are already under huge development pressure, as we see leases go up as much as 500%, driving away the food shops, immigrant businesses and vintage stores. We are over run with dispensaries. Pedestrianization leads to gentrification. Toronto does not need another Yorkville.