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Waterfront Toronto delays Sidewalk Labs decision day

The deadline to decide whether to move ahead with Sidewalk Labs’ smart city development proposal has been put back to May to allow more time for public consultation.

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Artist's impression of Sidewalk Labs' Quayside development
Artist's impression of Sidewalk Labs' Quayside development

The Board of Waterfront Toronto has agreed to extend the date for a decision on whether to move forward with Sidewalk Labs’ smart city development proposal.

 

Originally scheduled for 31 March 2020, the deadline has been shifted back to 20 May to allow more time for public consultation.

In November, the board of Waterfront Toronto unanimously agreed that Alphabet-owned Google sibling Sidewalk Labs’ plan to create a smart neighbourhood in a disused area of Toronto’s Quayside district could proceed to more formal evaluation and further public consultation. The scope of the project was scaled back, though, including the amount of land, the oversight of data and the “lead developer” role.

Waterfront Toronto said it has distilled more than 1,500 pages of Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan into 160 solutions for evaluation.

Since then, Waterfront Toronto said it has distilled more than 1,500 pages of Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan into 160 solutions and evaluated those solutions for their effectiveness in addressing urban challenges.

 

Public input


The board concluded that the proposal merits consultation with the public as well as further refinement and negotiation with Sidewalk Labs prior to a decision.

“[The] extension allows for more time for the public to provide feedback on Waterfront Toronto’s evaluation of Sidewalk Labs’ proposals and for the board to hear directly from the public on its priorities before any decision to proceed to implementation is taken,” said Stephen Diamond, board chair.

 

“This board will not sacrifice the public good for expediency,” he added.

 

Waterfront Toronto said it will seek further feedback at public meetings and online consultations.

“This board will not sacrifice the public good for expediency.”

Sidewalk Labs’ proposal has faced ongoing controversy, with high-profile advisors standing down over concerns about privacy and personal data. A group of citizens launched the Block Sidewalk campaign to try and stop the deal and in April 2019, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said it was taking legal action against Waterfront Toronto and the federal, provincial and municipal governments over citizens’ rights and “surveillance” relating to the project.

 

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