Toronto is Getting Rid of Some Parking

Sheppard Restaurant

Planners in Toronto are going to have an interesting May. Council is debating whether to approve a new casino on the 21st and will also likely debate revenue tools to fund 50 years of transit expansion. While both important issues are being debated, the most significant change in Toronto’s planning system since amalgamation will quietly come into force. On May 8th, Council will enact a new consolidated zoning by-law. Almost a decade in the making, the by-law is three volumes and 1,743 pages. It’s size, complexity, and language mean it really has not gotten the attention it deserves, yet arguably it will have a far more significant impact on the city than the Casino. Generally, the document is pretty conservative and replicates many of the existing by-laws. However, on page 251, Table 200.5.10.10 has a set of rules that should significantly reduce the amount of parking that the City requires, especially along major transit corridors.

The impact of the new parking regulations will be felt most in the former cities of Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough. I estimate that in places like North York, apartments and condominiums projects are going to see a significant reduction in required parking spots. The chart below shows some estimates comparing the approved spaces for six mid-rise buildings along Sheppard Avenue West with an estimate of how many would be required under the new by-law. With a below ground parking space costing $30,000, an average 15% reduction in the amount required could have a noticeable impact on affordability.

Sample Approved Parking Spots Estimated Required Parking Spots Under New By-law Reduction
Building 1

68

44

-35%

Building 2

93

61

-34%

Building 3

156

136

-13%

Building 4

124

112

-10%

Building 5

161

150

-7%

Building 6

193

176

-9%

Total

795

679

-15%

The change should also make it easier to find better commercial tenants for mixed-use buildings. The by-law is introducing more flexible requirements for smaller retail, personal services, grocery, and eating establishments. All eating establishments, grocery stores, and retail less than 200 square metres (2,152 sq. ft.) require no mandatory parking spots! For some perspective, under the old 1952 by-law it was essentially impossible to have a restaurant in a new condo in North York without a significant parking exemption.The 1952 North York by-law requires 10.20 to 16.95 spots per 100 square metres. Therefore, the owner of a restaurant with a gross floor area of 199 square metres would need to have 21 spots. Under the new zoning by-law, the same restaurant owner can open with zero parking. See why this might shake things up?

Type Old North York By-law (spot per 100 GFA) New Consolidated By-law
Mixed-use Building (residential only)

1.50 (unit)

0.90 (1 bed)

1.00 (2 bed)

1.20 (3 bed)

Office

2.08

1.50

Medical Office

4.17

3.00

Retail

3.57 – 6.67

0 – 6.00

Eating Establishment

10.20 – 16.95

0 – 5.00

The new by-law also establishes parking maximums. Anyone building anything in Toronto under the old by-law can propose to build as much parking as they want. For example, the owner of the 199 square meter restaurant can choose to provide 100 spots. Under the new by-law, where a maximum exists the number of spots will be capped.

It will be interesting to see how the development industry and property owners adapt to the new by-law. But one thing is certain, the city has gotten a much needed reduction in its parking minimums. Not a significant enough change to satisfy the Shoupistas, but definitely enough to effect the way the city will look, feel and move.

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