The Dig In Weblog

DIG IN initiates inclusive community and cultural plans and actions that will contribute to sustaining a neighbourhood that is GREEN • CLEAN • SAFE • CIVIL by fostering improvements in the areas of its social, environment, cultural, economic and physical make up. Please join our Mailing List / Yahoo Group.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Collaboration amongst Community groups

Community groups finding collaboration a great way to strengthen neighbourhoods

Toronto neighbourhood associations are finding rewards in reaching across borders with the common purpose of solving urban issues.

Gathering on the West Toronto Rail Path, from left, Bruce Gavin Ward, Liz Sutherland, Donna Cowan and Suhail Barot got together to develop a road safety program.

Tara Walton / Toronto Star Order this photo

Gathering on the West Toronto Rail Path, from left, Bruce Gavin Ward, Liz Sutherland, Donna Cowan and Suhail Barot got together to develop a road safety program. 

Donna Cowan was appalled at the anger in the streets she witnessed when she started commuting on her electric bicycle a couple of summers ago.
“It wasn’t car against bike only, it was car against car, bike against bike, walker against bike, everywhere,” she said.
So Cowan did what she’s grown accustomed to doing since the neighbourhood association she leads, DIGIN, launched a little more than a decade ago: she reached out to other local groups.
More and more neighbourhood associations like DIGIN — which is committed to the cultural, social, environmental and economic vitalization of the Bloor Street West neighbourhood around Bloordale — are breaking down boundaries and working together to strengthen their areas, Cowan said. She believes collaboration is a must if neighbourhood associations want to get anything done.
“Your community doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just because you have a border to your group doesn’t mean you cross the street and nothing’s happening,” she said.
On Sunday, Cowan, representing DIGIN, met Liz Sutherland of Ward 15 Cycle Toronto; her Ward 18 counterpart, Suhail Barot; and Bruce Gavin Ward, from Friends of West Toronto Rail Path, to work on a street safety initiative aimed at boosting civility and respect among all people who use the road.
People need to come together to improve an area, she said.
DIGIN has had its successes. It was the group’s idea to launch the BIG on Bloor Festival, a bi-annual street festival aimed at getting people in the neighbourhood talking about how to develop their stretch of Bloor.
“It brought together not only community residents’ associations but also social service agencies, the Bloordale Village BIA (Business Improvement Area), the Bloorcourt BIA, councillors, provincial and federal elected officials. From it, people are still talking; other collaborations are still going on. It was quite fruitful,” she said.
Many community groups that neighbour DIGIN subscribe to her group’s email list to keep up to date, Cowan said.
From left to right, Liz Sutherland, Donna Cowan, Bruce Gavin Ward and Suhail Barot pose for a photo Sunday on Dupont St. near the Toronto Railpath.
Tara Walton/Toronto Star

From left to right, Liz Sutherland, Donna Cowan, Bruce Gavin Ward and Suhail Barot pose for a photo Sunday on Dupont St. near the Toronto Railpath. 

“When next-door associations have information, they share it. For example, our neighbourhood is notorious for having bad developers. We’ve talked with other groups to share information so you know what tactics (certain developers) are going to use on you, that sort of thing.”
New development is often a catalyst for community groups coming together, said Sue Dexter, a member of the Harbord Village Residents Association board. Harbord Village, she said, regularly collaborates with Grange Community Association and The Annex Residents Association, among many others.
“I think there are enough issues in common that we do cross each other’s boundaries and get bound up in each other’s work,” Dexter said. “In a sense, we’re riding shotgun with each other and helping each other out as best we can. Harbord Village, for example, is a delegate to the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood revisioning.”
Dexter said Harbord Village has collaborated with other groups for at least a decade now, but the collaborations are happening more often lately.
“We’re starting to think of our own selves and our interests in a different way, because we see ourselves as part of a bigger picture. It’s no longer a one-off, in a sense. It’s a bigger unit.”
The change in thinking could be part of a resurgence in initiatives led by neighbourhood residents. In September, Paul Bain, a project manager in the city’s planning department, told the Star he has observed a “renaissance” of resident-led initiatives sprouting in neighbourhoods across Toronto.
“People have understood that there’s an opportunity to go in and do things in their community, and not just sit back and wait for the city to do it all,” Bain said.
Ed Hore, co-chair of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, said it’s been helpful to have the support of other groups as the YQNA deals with the issue of the island airport.
“We want a whole bunch of groups together on this, because we don’t want to be a whole bunch of parties all squabbling with each other.”
So much more can be accomplished by working together and capitalizing on one another’s strengths, said Tony Bolla, who is both a board member of the Regal Heights Village BIA and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas.
Bolla, who also founded a community website building business, said the Internet facilitates increased collaboration. Communities across the province have contacted him asking for help to build a website of their own.
The Danforth East Community Association has also spread its wings outside of Toronto through the association’s pop-up shop project, which aims to revitalize main streets by moving temporary stores into empty storefronts.
The project has so far proven successful — the commercial vacancy rate on Danforth East has decreased from 17 per cent to nine per cent — and the team has shared information with communities within the city as well as Oshawa, Bruce County and New Tecumseth, said Gay Stephenson, one of the project’s leads.
“The pop-up shop toolkit is available for any community to use for free and we can offer a workshop to help them get started,” Stephenson said in an email to the Star Sunday.
“We began sharing it on Twitter last week, and it's been downloaded 81 times. And the City of Toronto is very keen on supporting the spread of the pop-up project through combining work with BIAs and residents associations.”

With files from Rachel Mendleson

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Volunteers & Suggestions wanted for Street Safety Initiative

Hi all,

Some DIGIN members and a few west end Cycle Toronto groups  have been working on a West End Toronto Street Safety Project (a better name is to come) that has been borne out of the increased frustrations on our streets. We all know that growing congestion has resulted in more aggression and carelessness on the part of drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and other road users.
Our project is a modest outreach campaign that involves the development of a website with public awareness tools and resources that call attention in a light-hearted but pointed way to dangerous and disrespectful street behaviours, like aggressive and distracted driving, like cyclists or anyone else running red lights, or wandering into traffic while texting.

At this point we are looking to add content to our website. 

We are looking for any cartoons, videos, stories, anecdotes, anything that will help create more awareness and/or educate folks on how to respectfully share our streets so everyone can arrive alive. 

If you have come across anything that you'd like to share please send me the link or the information. 

*** If anyone is interested in working on this project we would gladly accept your help. ***
At this point we are doing research and web design...later on we will be designing 'promo' material and then doing the outreach during the spring/summer months.


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 City Council All Candidates Meeting

Ward 18 All Candidates Meeting 

on Sustainable Transportation

Bloor Gladstone Public Library 1101 Bloor Street West

Wednesday October 8th, 2014    

6:30 until 8:30

Join Ward 18 City Council Candidates: 
Paul Alves, Ana Bailão, Jolene Hunt, Alex Mazer, Derek Power, Elsa Romao, Mohammed Uddin

  • Safe bike infrastructure 
  • TTC Service, Fares and Funding 
  • Safe sidewalks and intersections 
  • Traffic flow and congestion

Submit your questions via

Join us after the debate at “The Steady” -1051 Bloor St to continue the conversation

Community Co-sponsors:
Dovercourt Park Community Association
Ward 18 Cycle Toronto
Code RedTO
TTC Riders
Walk TO

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Friday, February 14, 2014



Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport
   Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport

Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport
Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport
Jane's Walk: Doors Open Davenport

FIND MORE great pictures by Vic Gedris here:

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

DIGIN Meeting: Wed Feb 12th, 2014

Wednesday 12 FEB 2014
@ 7pm - 8:30pm

Wallace Emerson Community Centre
Ambrico Room
1260 Dufferin Street (on Dufferin, south of Dupont)

Davenport MPP Jonah Schein (7pm – 8pm)
Province's committment to housing
Inclusionary housing
Land Use / Employment lands
Transportation / Transit

Brief updates on potential upcoming projects: (8pm-8:30pm)
Road Safety Initiative
The Transit Challenge
Doors Open Davenport
Bike Polo Toronto
Open Streets TO

Adjourn 8:30 pm to Boo Radley's (NW corner Dupont and Campbell)

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Friday, December 6, 2013

DIGIN meeting: Wednesday 11 DEC 2013

Wednesday 11 DEC 2013
@ 7pm - 8:30pm
Wallace Emerson Community Centre
Ambrico Room
1260 Dufferin Street
(on Dufferin, south of Dupont)
Updates on the following:
1)      Hydro/traffic signal box (NW corner of Bloor and Lansdowne).
2)    TDSB sale of Kent & Bloor CI
3)      Bloordale BIA AGM update
4)      City of Toronto Richmond and Adelaide bike track public consultations
5)      City of Toronto Building department recommendation in favour of electronic billboard advertising in residential areas
6)      Transit - Relief Line
7)      Island Airport
8)      Committee of Adjustment for 1 Emerson
9)    Topics for discussion 2014?

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DIGIN meeting Wed Nov 13 @ 7pm - Responsible Neighbourhood Development cont'd

Wednesday 13 Nov 2013
@ 7pm - 8:30pm

Wallace Emerson Community Centre
Ambrico Room
1260 Dufferin Street
(on Dufferin, south of Dupont)
As our neighbourhood continues to morph, we will continue to discuss Responsible Neighbourhood Development.

It is recognized that our neighbourhoods need to remain affordable in order to retain the socio-economic and cultural diversity that has defined our area and that many of us value. As many of the big homes that line our streets hold multiple units it is in these homes that we often find affordable rental spaces. But what happens when the buildings and the yard maintenance are neglected? What happens when the neighbours have an issue they'd like to discuss with the owner but find the landlord unreachable? What is the landlord's responsibility to the neighbours? What by-laws etc are in place to encourage good neighbourly relations? How can we encourage engagement by the landlords? Do the cities policies help or hinder this engagement? Let's find out.

This month we have two guests from the City of Toronto.

Lauralyn Johnston -  from the City's Housing Policy Section and is a Planner working in our planning policy division. She who worked on the 20 Gladstone proposal and has lots of experience with rental housing, landlords, etc. She has a short presentation to make and a hand-out.
Joe Magalhaes -  district manager for Municipal Licensing & Standards. He works as the City's enforcement for municipal standards, including property maintenance.
He is well aware of the "problem properties" in our area and works in coordination with other city departments to address these situations. He is happy to speak to any specific concerns and answer questions.

DIGIN meetings are open to all. Feel free to forward and invite your friends and neighbours.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest Blogger #1 - Michelle Rosen - Railpath Run 2013


I'd like to invite anyone to participate as a guest blogger on the DIGIN blog. Just write a post and send it to me along with some pictures of things happening around our neighbourhood. Enjoy the first one from local resident Michelle Rosen. 


Michelle Rosen lives in the Bloordale Neighborhood and is lover of all things sweet.  When not working her 9 - 5 day job at the University of Toronto, Michelle likes to dabble in web design and development.  Encouraged by the Railpath Run, she is also training for a 10km race in December! 


On September 29th, I ran the Toronto Railpath Run.     It was a warm and sunny day for the end of September, and I was excited to get moving!  There were two parts to the run:  a competitive run at 9:15 am followed by a recreational/fun run at 10:30 am.  The goal was to run as many legs of the 2.1 kilometer trail as you could, in 45 minutes.  All the funds raised went to the STOP Community Food Centre.  I hadn’t run in quite some time but really enjoyed the community feel.   We began at the Wallace Street Bridge where volunteers were there to hand out running bibs and information. There were local political MPs and MPPs, community groups and even the Toronto Roller Derby Club to clear the path between races! The volunteers were friendly, and having the opportunity to ‘run like the wind’ (at least in my mind), without any cars or other obstacles to worry about, was all I needed to sign up.
 I also just really love the rail path.  I live just on the other side of the tracks and have been following the development of the project since I moved into the neighbourhood 3 years ago.  The path is an amazing intersection of nature and industry, past and present.  Depending where you are on the path you may feel like you are in a thicket in High Park, or visiting your favorite chocolate store.   Running past the old Tower Automotive Building and witnessing all the remediation work that is being done, reminds me of the history of the path and the positive attempt to revitalize the neighbourhood. There are art galleries and commissioned art installations, and impromptu displays of graffiti and street art that add to the diversity of the stretch.  The Friends of West Toronto Rail Path describe it as a linear park.  In my mind, the topography of the path may be straight (or slightly curvy) but the idea and reality of it is certainly not narrow!

The Railpath organizers also invited some community groups to the run, one of which was displaying alternatives to the proposed Metrolinx Noise Barriers.   I’m hopeful that some compromise can be found and a more integrated solution developed.  The proposed barriers seem incongruous to the way the path has developed, and the organic way it connects to its surroundings: the tracks, the trees, and the openness of the route.   It certainly wouldn’t feel the same to run with large, ugly, grey cement barriers lining the path.  I was really impressed with the ‘Sharing Boundaries’ plans and am encouraged by this hopeful alternative.  

I managed to run 6 kilometers and was cheered on by organizers and supporters.  There were prizes given away at the end of the race and plenty of food and water provided by the sponsors.  All in all, the run was fun and well organized.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy the West Toronto Railpath and the neighbourhood I live in. 

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