toronto parking pad

Toronto might close loophole that allows people to turn front yards into parking pads

While it's currently prohibited for homeowners in most parts of the former City of Toronto to pave over their front lawn and turn it into a parking pad, a legal loophole has allowed a handful of residents to get away with it. 

But that could soon change, because Parkdale/High Park city councillor Gord Perks is requesting that Toronto's planning and housing committee look into ways to close the loophole once and for all. 

"There are important public policy reasons for keeping parking pads out of much of the city," Perks told blogTO in an interview.

He explained that while the practice is not permitted by the city, residents are actually allowed to go around city council and seek permission from the committee of adjustment.

If the committee agrees that the homeowner should be allowed to have parking on their property for whatever reason, the city is then obliged to go against their own bylaw and cut the curb to create a parking pad for that person. 

Several planning consultants have had clients who've used these loopholes recently, according to Perks, including one homeowner who claimed he absolutely needed the parking pad so he could plug in his Tesla.

As a result, Perks argues the city has lost its ability to regulate the practice of creating parking pads in Toronto, though he says there are "four overlapping reasons that are all valid for getting rid of them."

The first is the need for as many green spaces as possible to prevent rain water and melted snow from hitting hard surfaces, rushing into the sewage treatment system and overwhleming it. 

Perks said the city has already spent a staggering amount of money on holding tanks for the water to sit in so it doesn't contaminate the lakes. 

"Every patch of green space helps to fight that problem, because the water, a lot of it doesn't rush into our system but gets absorbed into the soil, a tree, grass, a bush or whatever living thing is there," he said. 

"Wherever we can protect green space, we should, even if it's just the patches of front lawn. That actually adds up."

Perks added that cutting the curb to create a parking pad reduces the number of shared parking spots on a street. 

"If you cut a curb to make a parking pad, you have removed an on-street parking space," he said. "You actually reduce the amount of parking in a neighbourhood that everybody benefits from just to give a private parking pad to one individual."

He also said encouraging motorists to drive over the sidewalk presents added dangers for pedestrians in a neighbourhood, and that a parking pad is permanent — even if the reason for needing one isn't.

That's why Perks has submitted a letter to the Nov. 17 agenda asking the planning and housing committee to direct city staff to look into what changes can be made to the Municipal Code, City planning or other processes to protect city council's authority to regulate front yard parking, and report back by March 2021.

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