A development plan for Toronto’s waterfront by Sidewalk Labs has been pushed into 2019 to allow for “additional feedback,” following privacy concerns raised by residents and the city.
Sidewalk, a unit of Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., was selected by Waterfront Toronto last October to develop a 12-acre plot of land dubbed Quayside near the foot of Parliament Street in Toronto’s eastern waterfront.
Initially, an agreement to lay out the scope of the project was expected in April. As talks slowed after multiple community roundtables, the timeline was delayed to late 2018 or early 2019.
Now, Sidewalk says a draft plan will be released in early 2019, with a fifth roundtable to follow. The feedback from that consultation will be worked into the final plan, to be released in spring of 2019, when it will be considered by the boards of Waterfront Toronto and Google Alphabet.
“Extending the planning process reflects feedback from the community and our desire to take the time to get this right. It affords us more time to work with the community and other stakeholders, and to add another roundtable in early 2019 after the draft plan is released to get additional feedback that will inform the final proposal. The more voices and perspectives involved will strengthen our work,” Toronto Waterfront spokeswoman Carol Webb said in a statement.
The roundtable scheduled for early July will now take place Aug. 14.
“We will cover the same information on both dates: initial thinking for the public realm, streets, and buildings that is coming into focus. We think two sessions will provide good opportunities to discuss and consider this work,” Sidewalk said in a release.
Sidewalk has not yet said what the development could actually entail, but it has floated ideas ranging from self-driving cars and garbage trucks, to thermal energy in buildings, to sensors that could detect pedestrians and re-time traffic signals.
Many people at the roundtables raised concerns about the privacy implications of street-level sensors. Sidewalk officials promised to be open about their data collection and not to sell it to third parties or use it for advertising. Residents have to “opt-in” to services that use their personal data – otherwise, it will be “de-identified,” Sidewalk said.
Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto have still not yet reached an agreement on where data collected by New York-based Sidewalk will be stored. Critics have said the data should remain in Canada, so that it would be subject to Canadian law and not potentially accessed by other governments.