Thoughts on the Sidewalk Labs Vision for Waterfront Toronto

If you’re an urban planner, city official, or just an aspiring urbanist like me, you’ll no doubt have heard the big news from Toronto – Waterfront Toronto recently chose Sidewalk Labs as their partner to redevelop Quayside, a neighbourhood with enormous potential right to the east of the downtown core.

I’ve followed Sidewalk Labs for some time as they sought a site to build out their vision for the future of cities, and I’m a fan of Canadian cities overall – so this is a particularly exciting development for me. Canadian cities already rank astoundingly high for livability (Toronto recently came in 4th in a global livability report), and this new endeavor is likely going to solidify their place for decades to come.

As an active student of modern urbanism (who should have pursued a minor in planning when I had the chance), I’m always eager to stay abreast of all the current trends and best practices in city planning. I knew that Sidewalk’s response to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP would contain a forward-thinking vision that could push the field of urban innovation in new directions, and it did not disappoint.

I went through the 196-page (!!) public vision document and found quite a few intriguing ideas – some that were new applications of existing technology (e.g. self-driving taxibots) and some that were radically ambitious (e.g. overhauling building codes to be metric outcomes-based). I’ll share some of my feedback for the vision below, including questions I’d raise with Sidewalk regarding the feasibility/scalability of some of their proposals.

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Talking Past Each Other 1: Guns

This is the first in a (hopefully) series of posts called “Talking Past Each Other” – where I attempt to distill both sides of a political argument to make it easier to empathise with people you disagree with. For more background, see this introduction.

Yet another mass shooting happened in Las Vegas recently. And as the (sadly) predictable cycle of news + talking points + vehement disagreement played out on social media, the discourse disturbed me more than usual. We’ve been through this dozens of times and have been talking about gun legislation in the U.S. for literally decades now with no real change in policy. It’s almost as if the two sides of the debate have become ever more entrenched with each major shooting occurrence… What is going on?!

Here’s my take on the dialogue that’s happening, with translations to uncover some of the real intentions/emotions behind what people are saying.

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Talking Past Each Other: Intro

Ever since I came back to the United States from abroad and witnessed the most divisive presidential election of my lifetime in 2016, I have noticed myself paying a lot more attention to politics than I used to. I became more “woke” (as the teens say nowadays). It’s certainly not the healthiest habit to pick up (as I find myself constantly aggravated by my news feeds), but I think I’m learning a lot – and an informed citizenry is something this country needs right now.

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