Liveblogging Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan, Entry 22: The MIDP Volume 1, The Plans; Chapter 2: The River District, Part 1: Neighbourhood Planning concepts

Includes a nostalgic look back to the times when Sidewalk Labs promised us a community built “from the internet up.”

Previous Master Innovation and Development Plan liveblog entries and relevant documents available here

Onward, into Part 1.

Part 1: Neighbourhood Planning Concepts (pp. 292-348)

Lots of repetition from things mentioned in the Quayside chapter and the Overview.

Part 1.1: The River District Program (pp. 294-302)

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Full-page photos comprise half of Part 1.1’s eight pages.

Neighbourhood production

New production and workshop facilities, enabled by Sidewalk Labs’ unique lower-floor stoa spaces, can be located throughout the district, strengthening the commitment to a diversity of uses and providing additional opportunities for small businesses that build off new technologies and capabilities. (p. 295)

the ability to live and work in the same neighbourhood (p. 296)

Question: What specific bylaws changes would this plan require? Here, we’re just being sold on the benefits, not the – what’s the word – planning required to actually do it.

And, yes, some of this information is provided (or will probably be provided) elsewhere in the report, but why not include all the relevant information in one section?

Part 1.2: Villiers West: Creating an Economic Hub With a Thriving New (pp. 303-313; not listed in Table of Contents)

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Eleven pages, three full-page photos, three-quarters of one page taken up with a pull quote.

Urban innovation: it’s not just tech; it’s political

This effort defines urban innovation as going beyond the mere pursuit of urban efficiencies associated with the “smart cities” movement, towards a broader set of digital, physical, and policy advances that enable government agencies, academics, civic institutions, and entrepreneurs both local and global to address large urban challenges. (p. 304)

This quote highlights the extent to which Sidewalk Labs and Google are not just, or maybe even primarily, interested in creating new technologies. Rather, they are interested in the policies and politics that shape technology. This makes sense, because technology reflects the society that produces it. What’s more, just as different people have different views of how society should be structured and what government should do, so too are there different views about what technologies should be developed, how they should be used, and to what ends.

In other words, technology is highly political. This proposal shows that Google isn’t interested in reacting to these social imperatives and constraints; it wants to shape them so as to favour its own particular interests. This is what this Urban Innovation Institute is about.

Most importantly, Google’s interests may not align with those of Torontonians or Canada. This is something that we should be discussing publicly, in City Council, in the Ontario Legislature, and in Parliament. They’re also conversations that academics need to be having, including the extent to which private-sector (particularly Google and the other big US tech companies) research financing is shaping our participation in these debates.

As it stands, these plans are another example of how Sidewalk Labs’ seemingly benign proposals, in this case for an Urban innovation Institute (p. 306) and having Google anchor and “catalyze” (p. 306) the Toronto tech sector, would pre-empt vital and necessary policy conversations.

Quick note on Urban Innovation Institute governance: Sidewalk Labs is committing to $10 million in seed funding, which would be administered by an “agreed-upon” entity. (p. 307)

Part 1.3: Beyond Villiers West: A Different Role for Sidewalk Labs (pp. 314-315; not listed in Table of Contents)

Two pages outlining/repeating how Sidewalk Labs sees its role in the wider waterfront (discussed in the previous post covering the River District Introduction).

Part 1.4: Vision for Villiers East: Achieving Key Public Policy Goals (pp. 316-329; not listed in Table of Contents)

Part 1.5: Vision for Keating Channel: Reclaiming a Historic Canal (pp. 330-335; not listed in Table of Contents)

Part 1.6: Vision for McCleary: Creating a Model Live-Work Neighbourhood (pp. 336-341; not listed in Table of Contents)

Part 1.7: Vision for Polson Quay: Reinventing a Working Waterfront Neighbourhood (pp. 342-347; not listed in Table of Contents)

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Forty-two pages. Nine full-page illustrations. Three full-page pull-quotes.

And that’s not counting all the maps and artists’ renderings of communities (e.g., p. 325).

Key points

Again, this section generally repeats what we’ve already read; it’s basically the Quayside plan rolled out to its desired parts of the Eastern Waterfront, with some site-specific proposals a lot of “could-ing”. Here’s what may stand recalling.

On governance:

  • Sidewalk Labs would be involved in developing “an ‘Infrastructure and Transportation Master Plan’ that sets the guidelines for the types of systems required and identifies and supports pathways to implementation. (p. 320)
  • “At Villiers Island, both west and east, Sidewalk Labs would work with Waterfront Toronto to identify and establish specifications and a path to implementation for each infrastructure system. These systems include … Thermal grid … Advanced power grid … Active stormwater management … Freight delivery … Ubiquitous connectivity … Additional systems … such as water and sanitary sewer connections … Ongoing exploration [to develop] advanced infrastructure systems …” (p. 322)

More tomorrow.

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