A 32-member advisory body of residents randomly selected through a Civic Lottery. The Panel represents the diversity of Toronto’s population and broadens engagement by bringing new voices into the planning process.
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Problems and Purpose
The Toronto Planning Review Panel (TPRP) was created so that a representative group of Torontonians could help the City Planning Division guide growth and change in Toronto. The Panel is a new way for residents to become engaged in city planning processes; it complements, but does not replace, other methods of public consultation.
In September 2015, 28 Torontonians were randomly selected through a Civic Lottery to be members of the Panel for two years (16 meetings). Panelists work together over the course of two years to provide City Planning with informed public input on major planning initiatives. Members help to ensure these initiatives are well-aligned with the values and priorities of all Torontonians.
The Planning Review Panel has been specially designed to bring a balance of new voices into the planning process, to offer members access to city planners, independent experts, and stakeholders over the course of 16 day-long meetings, and to support members as they work together to produce informed, representative public input on major city planning initiatives shaping Toronto.
Topics that have been addressed by the Panel to date include the draft Townhouse and Low-rise Apartment Guidelines, Complete Streets Guidelines, the public engagement strategy for Phase 2 of the TOcore Project, the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan, the ‘Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities Study’, the Neighbourhood Urban Design Guidelines, and the City's Ravine Strategy.
Background History and Context
- To the best of the organisers' knowledge, this is the first time a civic lottery and citizen reference panel have been used to provide consistent and long-term feedback on a multitude of city planning topics.
- In Canada, City Planning is the responsibility of a Municipality (the City of Toronto), but must adhere to provincial planning policies. Planners who work for the city make recommendations to elected City Council, who then make the final decisions on planning matters (usually in the form of funding provision). Public engagement on planning issues informs the proposal brought to Council.
- Other methods of public consultation used in a planning context are: participatory budgeting, town hall meetings, and public meetings (especially about specific development proposals, which are required as part of any development proposals)
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The City of Toronto provides funding for the Toronto Planning Review Panel. The City has hired MASS LBP, a citizen engagement firm located in Toronto, to organise and execute TPRP meetings. MASS LBP is a private company dedicated to improving democracy and democratic process through meaningful citizen engagement.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Panelists: MASS LBP utilised a Civic Lottery process to select 28 representative but randomly selected Torontonians to sit on the Planning Review Panel. Over 12,000 Civic Lottery packages were mailed out to Toronto households (1 in 87 households), informing residents about the panel and asking for their participation. Over 500 Torontonians applied, of which 28 were selected for the Panel to match the demographic profile of city residents, and roughly match the proportion of home owners and renters. The selection guaranteed gender parity, matched the age profile of Toronto, ensured equal representation from each of the four Community Council Districts (with two young people from each), balanced for visible minority status, included a proportionate number of renters and owners, and ensured the inclusion of at least one Aboriginal member. Proportions were established based on the most recent available census profile.
Presenters: Each Panel topic is selected by the City of Toronto Planning Department. Topic requires an awareness by the City of which planning projects are in a stage where Panel input would be useful and impactful. Panelists also have some input into topic selection. Presenters are brought in by the City, and are chosen to provide the Panel with a solid explanation of the topic. Multiple presenters are brought in to discuss some issues, to ensure a multitude of perspectives are represented.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Between October 2015 and November 2017, members of the Planning Review Panel will meet 16 times. Members of the Panel learn first-hand about the city and its planning process from independent experts as well as City staff; contribute their own perspectives and learn about the views of others; and provide input to the Planning Division on important issues shaping the city.
The Planning Division requests input from the Planning Review Panel on issues such as development signage changes, the desired density and character of different neighbourhoods, the importance of historic buildings and public art, and the location of new community amenities like parks, libraries, and community centres. Members do not review individual development applications.
In the Fall of 2015, panel members each dedicated 40 hours to an orientation program that was held over the course of four Saturdays. During that time, they heard from seventeen guest speakers who introduced them not only to the tools of city planning, but also to the trends shaping Toronto's economy, housing stock, demographics, built form, public realm, transportation system, parkland, and natural environment. This crash course in city building was accompanied by facilitated discussions where members worked together to identify and define principles and priorities that would guide their work over the next two years. For their guiding principles, they selected inclusivity; safety and security; innovation; affordability and prosperity; community wellbeing; and functionality.
Panel meetings are usually organised into a morning and an afternoon topic, allowing the Panel to cover 2 planning topics in one meeting. Panelists sit at round tables of 6-8 people, with one facilitator at each table. First, the Panel organisers welcome the group and introduce the topics of the day and presenters. The first set of presenters then explain their topic to Panelists, who listen, take notes, and ask questions. Following presentations, panelists deliberate with the other panelists at their tables to create recommendations (the details of these depend on the topic being discussed). The tables then share their work with the rest of the Panel in a plenary session, where Panelists can comment on what has been discussed. Through this process, detailed notes are taken - these are used to create a report from the day's deliberations. This report is approved by every panelist and then published on the TPRP website.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Planning Review Panel is an influential body and an important source of input that will helps the Planning Division provide effective advice to City Council. The Panel’s perspectives, insights, and priorities are referenced in reports to Council and published on the City of Toronto’s website.Over the course of their two year term so far, Panelists have provided input to the Planning Division with regards to specific initiatives and decisions:
- In January 2016, Panelists published recommendations on City Planning’s draft townhouse and Low-rise Apartment Guidelines;
- In April 2016, Panelists published recommendations on The City’s Complete Streets Guidelines & the engagement strategy for Phase 2 of the TOCore Study;
- In May 2016, Panelists published recommendations on the Parks and Recreation Division’s Facilities Master Plan, and City Planning’s ‘Growing Up’ Study.
- In September 2016, Panelists published recommendations on The Neighbourhood Design Guidelines Project and the Toronto Ravine Strategy.
- In October 2016, Panelists published an evaluation of their work over the Panel’s inaugural year, as well as recommendations on how to make the most of the remainder of their two-year term.
- In November 2016, Panelists published recommendations on the progress of the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan and the design changes of Development Proposal Signage.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Citizens' Reference Panel