Pusateri’s threatens Bay Street pedestrian improvements

The City of Toronto will be reconstructing Bay Street between Bloor St. and Davenport Rd this year. One of the key benefits to pedestrians will be widening Bay Street’s busy sidewalks. The City of Toronto has consulted with the community and local stakeholders including residents’ associations and the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area. One of the top priorities identified by the community was an improved pedestrian realm, particularly wider, safer and more pleasant sidewalks. Two city-owned lay-bys, where the roadway cuts into the sidewalk, will be removed on the west side of Bay – a TTC bus bay at Cumberland, in front of the west side entrance to Bay subway station, and at the southwest corner of Bay and Yorkville Avenue.

Since the consultations concluded, only one local interest has spoken out against the planned improvements. Pusateri’s uses the Bay/Yorkville lay-by for valet parking service for its customers. The Bay Street improvement project proposes to remove the lay-by because it cuts into sidewalk space. The constriction of pedestrian access is a critical concern: the lay-by is located  just north of a busy entrance to the Bay subway station and the ‘scramble’ intersection at Bloor St. A patio installed by Pusateri’s during the warmer months further constricts pedestrian flow.

Pusateri’s uses this city owned lay-by, which was installed ten years ago at the store’s request, for its exclusive use. At the time, Pusateri’s paid $75,000 to cover the costs of the lay-by’s installation, with the support of then-Ward 27 councillor Kyle Rae. Signage installed by the store declares this public space as for the sole use of its valet and detailing service, to the exclusion of all other users. Valet staff stationed in front of the store have shooed away other lay-by users. This sets a troubling precedent for the privatization of public space.

Pusateri’s hired prominent city hall lobbyists, Sussex Strategy Group, to pressure city council to maintain their lay-by, even though it had not been involved in the local consultations when the street reconstruction project was planned last year. Public Works chair and Ford loyalist Denzil Minnan-Wong supports Pusateri’s in calling for the retention of the lay-by.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who now represents Ward 27, notes that during the consultations the local BIA and local resident’s associations supported the plan.

It is Pusateri’s claim that a Bay Street lay-by is indispensable for a gourmet food store’s survival. There are alternatives that would continue to accommodate Pusateri’s customers without disrupting pedestrian traffic, which Councillor Wong-Tam has been advocating. These include the relocation of the valet service to the building’s own driveway off Yorkville Avenue; or directing motorist customers to the Green P parking facility, located just across the street from Pusatieri’s on Yorkville Ave.

The vote on the removal of the Bay Street lay-by takes place at the next council meeting this Thursday, March 21. Councillor Wong-Tam’s office notes that Pusateri’s, or their representatives, has not yet submitted any proposals for review to Transportation Services in advance of this vote. Given the aggressive lobbying on this local matter and Councillor Minnan-Wong’s support, this item may be quite contentious.

Here is a link to the agenda item. You can submit written comments to the agenda item, which will be entered into the record.

Walk Toronto, the new pedestrian advocacy group, has joined the local residents’ association (ABC) in support of the planned road improvements. In addition to a petition, it urges concerned residents to contact their local councillor (and copy the city clerk and Councillor Wong-Tam) to express their support for an improved pedestrian realm. You can sign Walk Toronto’s petition here.


  1. I shop here occasionally, usually walking up from the Bay subway exit, and I don’t find this stretch of sidewalk remotely dangerous, daunting or pedestrian unfriendly. The picture tells the story – does it really seem that narrow as it is now?

  2. i work off of scollard – the sidewalk along bay from scollard to davenport is barely used by pedestrians, since there is very little retail, actually none north of pusateri’s. the pusateri’s block is rarely congested with pedestrians. seems like a ball-busting move just to penalize a private business, reneging on an agreement actually authorized by the city, and paid for by the retailer.

    mind you i find the concept of valet parking to be quite posh, and not my style. but it seems like this is one of these nit-picky, nannyist issues that seems to fascinate certain people in the public realm.

  3. Keith, click on the above “southwest corner” link to see a picture which tells the full story. In the summer, just to the north of the lay-by, a patio installed by Pusateri’s removes a good chunk of walking space. Add to that the trees and posts that hem in pedestrians from the other side – as well as the sharp turn in direction forced by the lay-by itself. What you end up with is a nightmare for the visually impaired and a case study in poor sidewalk design.

  4. Steve:

    Please explain why this is a “ball-busting move”. The fact is that while yes, Pusateri’s did pay $75,000 in 2003 for the costs of the lay-by, the city did not guarantee its continued existence in perpetuity. Alternatives exist, such as the use of the condo’s driveway adjacent to the store, which would continue to allow the valet service to operate. Several municipal and private parking facilities are within a block. This is not about penalizing a private business, in fact, as I mention above, the BIA supports the lay-by’s removal.

  5. I’ve looked at the picture with the patio, and walked around the area while the patio is operational. I have the strong belief that this issue is getting as much play as it is because Pusateri’s and valet parking are juicy targets, not because of any remotely serious issue with the way the sidewalk is now.

  6. Pusateri is not the issue, while some commenters want to focus on this as a distraction tactic. They ignore the most glaring element: Why does this business need it as opposed to other businesses in the area? It doesn’t need it, it just wants it.

    The majority of people who use this street do not shop there but use the sidewalk. The sidewalk is often clogged and busy during business hours, less so on weekends. There is a reason there are two scramble intersections at Yonge and Bay on Bloor — the pedestrian volume is large enough to support it.

    The fact that the BIA supports its removal says it all — get rid of it and make a better walking environment. This strip of the street itself and its users deserve much better than what is currently there.

  7. 1) Pusateri’s did pay for the lay-by so we (i.e. the City) have an obligation to at least consult with them directly if we plan changes. However I might ask the following question: “Has this $75,000 expenditure been written off on their books (and for tax purposes)? If so then they don’t really have any complaint.
    2)If we are going to allow the lay-by to remain then we should impose some conditions such as i)removal of the sign (and the attitude) regarding its use and ii)removal of their summer patio if it restricts pedestrians. That is, we give them a choice: you can heve one impediment only: the lay-by or the patio. You choose!

  8. Not yet mentioned is the foot traffic from children walking to Jesse Ketchum one block north or that Yorkville and upper Yorkville have an increasing aging population. Both groups would benefit from the loss of the bottleneck in the sidewalk here.

  9. Looks like there is room for compromise. What does Pusateri’s want more, a lay-by or a sidewalk patio in the summer? Having both takes up too much pedestrian space and one needs to go. I personally vote to get rid of the lay-by. As previously stated, if they really, really, need to have valet then use Yorkville Ave. That way they can have their cake and eat it too.

  10. I often ride along this section of Bay Street on my bicycle. Even though there is a lay-by, too many cars are frequently jammed into this area, forcing cyclists further into traffic. I would appreciate the removal of this lay-by as it is a traffic & cycling issue. I also agree with many of the above comments, concerned with the pedestrian bottleneck that occurs in the warmer months, for both young and old. Lastly, I am doubtful that ‘Pusateri’s survival’ is dependent on this lay-by. I want to see the statistics proving that the majority of their costumers arrive by vehicle. I am not convinced.

  11. Was the option to use this public property offered to anyone else?

  12. If we are going to use words like “fairness” — as Pusateri’s, their powerful lobbyists and certain City Councillors are — then let’s ask this: How is it even possible that Pusateri’s could be granted for almost 10 years the FREE usage of a prime stretch of public realm belonging to the City of Toronto???

    They have paid ZERO rent to the City. ZERO. The $75,000 (it was actually $60,000) number being tossed about was for the Cost of Construction. No revenue has gone to the City even though Pusateri’s CHARGE for their valet service. What are 4 parking spots on Bay Street really worth? Well they sell for upwards of $75,000 EACH in nearby condos.

    So who exactly is getting ‘screwed’?

    They can relocate the valet 25 paces to the opposite side of the SAME BUILDING — is this what the 1% now define as Armageddon? Having to walk 20 extra paces? This whole ‘controversy is nutty beyond words.

    I’m not a huge supporter of KWT — but she and City staff are 100% right on this one. For Pete’s sake, Pusateri’s own BIA want the layby removed.

  13. Good news! Council voted today to eliminate the layby! This is a win for cyclists and pedestrians.

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