See also Site Map
Description: Status: Open Department: Problems adding two steps to rinkhouse from north sidewalk. Various conflicts between community and City staff. Categories: Trails, Parks Supervisor, Safety, Enforcement, Service Opened: May 2, 2006 Closed: March 16, 2007 Next:
This section of dirt is a main "cowpath" for people coming up from the sidewalk to the rink entrance in winter. We tried growing flowers there every year but the ground is too compacted from people walking on it. The parks workers laid that strange steep path of interlock paving stones at the left (about 7 years ago) but it's treacherously slippery in the winter and people avoid it. As you see, it's also missing some pavers.
What's needed there is some stairs. Could you find out if this can be done this summer?
Parks manager Sandy Straw came to look at the stair location and agreed to put them on the park to-do list for this year.
Parks manager Sandy Straw said there's no time or money to build the stairs in time for winter. They will be built next year, she says. But it's been nine years since rink users first asked for stairs there (the city built the slanted interlock path instead). So a two-stair riser was bought with community money (steel and two-inch wood) from Home Depot, and installed. This will make the winter passage safer. Next year, or in a few more years, the City can instal stairs using their own carpenters. Hopefully they'll be this useful.
At about one p.m., rink users noticed that they no longer had access to the winter stairs, but had to go up the slippery incline again. No one had seen the person who fenced in the stairs, nor had on-site rink staff been notified.
The city-built interlock incline is a dangerous access where many people have slipped and fallen when it ices up in the winter. It was already iced twice this year. Blocking the safer stair access is dangerous for rink users, so the fence was removed. That left the four steel posts which are also dangerous because someone could fall on them and be impaled, so they were also removed and safely stored in the breezeway. The stairway has now been restored for rink users to access the rink entryway from the sidewalk without having to put themselves at risk of falling on a slippery grade.
Another good reason for storing the four steel posts away from where they can be (easily) pulled up, is that this means they can't be used as a weapon. Note that so many youth come to this rink that there has been a threat of some kind about every second day since the rink opened for the season. There should never be access to a steel post temporarily erected by the City.
This afternoon someone came and blocked off our community-built winter stairs leading up to the outdoor ice rink entryway. No one saw the persons who did this, nor did they consult with any rink staff. But this fence makes winter access up to the rink door unsafe, so it had to be removed, and the sharp steel poles had to be stored where they could not become weapons.
Please let us know who did this and why. We need to talk!
If the City carpenters would like to make the community-built winter stairs safer, railings would be nice. And if the City's insurance people are worried about lawsuits, maybe they could start with the two rink construction sites in your area?
Dear Councillor Giambrone,
For the second time this month, the community-built stairs to provide safe access to the Dufferin Rinkhouse entryway have been destroyed by the City. No one has said they did this. But the evidence is there: the pre-built Home Depot two-stair riser that we bought is gone and a danger fence is erected around the section, forcing rink users once again to go up the steeply inclined path put there by the City years ago. It has no railings and it is slippery even in rain. When there is ice or snow, people often fall there.
Please find out for us who did this and why. We would like our stair riser back, or the money we paid for it: $73.39.
And please ensure that proper stairs are put in immediately. Last May Parks manager Sandy Straw was made aware of the need for stairs, and she agreed to get them built. But in late summer she said there were no funds to do the stairs this year. We put in temporary stairs and notified the maintenance supervisor.
If the City wants to destroy the stairs we bought from Home Depot because they're not "up to code," please ask them to do the work themselves, NOW, to protect the rink users from injury.
We seem to have a communication problem here!!!!
1. We had an agreement that the ice rink repairs were priority for this year
2. Why on earth would you install any items on park property without consultation and approval;?
3. I arranged for appropriate City staff to inspect the stairs you installed and they are deemed unsafe, a trip hazard, and do not comply with code. Code and legal liability issues lie with City staff to ensure the park is safe and MUST be adhered to.
I understand you removed the safety fencing the first time staff erected it. Please understand this is not a legal action to undertake.
I was of the understanding you and I were trying to work together to ensure the park received amenities but that we would do things that did not jeopardize public safety or any legal liabilities that surround such actions.
When I return in the New Year we can plan for the 2007 park amenities as we originally agreed.
In the interim I expect you to respect the fact that the current version of the stairs constitutes a safety hazard and liability issue for the City and must not be reinstalled.
I agree: there is a communication problem here.
In answer to your question, why we would instal the stairs -- because the existing City-built access is a safety hazard. That is what I told you in May and that's why we put in a temporary alternative in August. I notified maintenance supervisor Peter Leiss in August and there would have been plenty of time to take action then.
I am most interested in rink user safety and I know how many people have wiped out on that access, including me. I also know how many people have complained to the rink staff about the poor access for years. I am not persuaded that the City is concerned about that information. But parks are for citizens, and if the City doesn't take proper care, then who will?
Please have proper stairs put in now if you will not allow us to do our temporary fix. In the meantime, I will not remove the fencing, since your staff took our stairs. Instead, I will post the City's reasons as you've given them here, right on the plastic fence, and rink users can let City management know what they think. And we can update the photos as soon as the snow falls, when the City's access path becomes impossible, starting on Tuesday. Perhaps you'd like to at least ask your staff to put up danger tape there?
P.s. I see that your general manager, your director, and the supervisor who works for you are all on holiday, and you're about to go too. The timing here is regrettable, since this is also peak season at the City rink.
Here's my request for rink stairs follow-up. We need to talk to the building code inspector a.s.a.p.
In the past few days I've been talking to rink users about the City tearing out the rink clubhouse access stairs, and many people signed the attached letter to Adam (I have quite a few pages). I'll give that petition to staff at McCormick to send in to your office via inter-departmental mail. I've also stuck the letter onto the City's danger fence, right beside the sidewalk.
For the solution, we need to find out what dimensions the stairs need to be, and whether they can be made of wood, etc. -- i.e. what the actual problem was, so that new stairs can be installed before the first snowstorm or ice storm.
The number of people who have told me in the last few days that they fell/almost fell there is so high that it's only a matter of time before the City gets a claim -- and now that it can be shown that the City removed the alternative, they might be in worse legal trouble than I'm in with Sandy Straw.
Text of petition to the City Councillor:
I spoke with Vince Conforzi of Buildings and Sandy, and it looks like the decision to remove the stairs had nothing to do with the Ontario Building Code, so a visit with a Buildings inspector won't be necessary.
It's Parks staff we need to work with, because the concerns were that the stairs didn't satisfy Parks construction codes (I don't really know anything about those at this point.)
Because of holidays, the earliest I could get a commitment for a site meeting was Tuesday, January 2 at 9 a.m. Sandy will be there, as will John Howlett and others. Chris from our office will be there, because I have an 8:15 meeting here at City Hall, but I'll bring him up to speed.
I kept the petition here to give to you on Friday, but maybe we'll just post the whole thing, signatures and all, on the danger fence.
Here's the quote from Sandy after she got the stairs pulled out:
"I arranged for appropriate City staff to inspect the stairs you installed and they are deemed unsafe, a trip hazard, and do not comply with code."
So I would appreciate it if you could find out from Sandy who that City staff person was and ask them to attend, so that we may all learn which code was being infringed (I've cc'd her here, as you see). Being treated like this was a miserable experience for rink friends, but at least we can learn something, to shape the recommendations CELOS wants to submit to the Parks Committee in mid-January.
Present: Parks manager Sandy Straw, Chris Gallop(assistant to City Councillor Adam Giambrone), Jutta Mason, Dan Watson, John Howitt (carpentry foreman), Doug Muir (parks construction project supervisor)experts
-Sandy began the meeting by saying that it is illegal for members of the public to alter Toronto City property in any way. Then she listed the problems with the stairs, as follows:
-Awkward spot. The slope of the landing makes it difficult to make the stairs level (this is a requirement). If the stairs are level, there will be a trip hazard at the top -The bricks are a trip hazard if there is even slight unevenness in how they're laid -The curb at the bottom is not the regulation height for a stair -Because of the wide span of the stairs, a centre support is needed
Sandy said that these regulations come from Basic Construction Safety Guidelines but couldn't exactly say where they come from. She said they'd look into that.
-Sandy said that it has cost the city $2000 dollars to take out the stairs (Because of wages paid to those working on the issue of illegal installation). The stairs cost park friends $76 to put in.
- Doug Muir said that it would be better to put up a fence so that people would be forced to walk up the ramp and not try to walk on the middle part to get more traction. Also he said that if it's slippery on the ramp, people should shovel it.
-A design was promised in a week (January 9th)
I need to check some things from today's meeting.
1. You got the stairs removed to teach me a lesson, that no one but City staff can put stairs into a park. 2. Your removal efforts of our Home Depot stairs cost the city $2000. 3. In order to protect rink users from tripping, you will now engage the design section, and you're hoping that the project will come in under $10,000 and will be completed within a month.
Please confirm or modify.
The unofficial word from Sandy is that we can probably remove the fencing at Dufferin Grove and restore it to a "flower bed," as we discussed, until the new stairs get built. She is waiting to hear back from Legal on whether that resolves any liability issues.
1. Please ask Sandy to leave the fencing in place. Park friends plan to put the the Home Depot stairs back in place just for "show-and-tell," so rink users can examine for themselves exactly how perilous the existing "trip hazard" was. Since Sandy does not want the stairs actually used, we'll need her fencing to remain up to prevent this. Also, there's not actually any point in putting a "flower bed" in there, since it's been what the maintenance people call a "cow-path" for years. Under slippery conditions people prefer to walk up the uneven dirt hill since it allows more footholds than the smooth inclines on either side.
2. Early next week we'll be introducing a rink users' "design contest" for the new stairs. I believe that Sandy said the new stairs will come in under $10,000 (she ignored my post-meeting e-mail asking her to confirm this statement). Our Home Depot stairs cost $76, as you know. There are many architects, engineers, and inspired carpenters among the rink users, and perhaps they can come up with something better and cheaper than is currently being planned. The approach discussed by the design staff on-site today sounded rather complicated. And there should be no money wasted.
3. For our design contest, not only do we need rink users to see how the Home Depot stairs look, but also we need the exact wording of the relevant code dealing with trip hazards etc. Could you ask the Parks staff for this information? We'll need it as soon as possible, please, latest by the middle of next week, because of an upcoming CELOS meeting. We also need a printed version of the Legal department's judgment on the stair risk. If none of this information is available, please let me know right away.
4. We also need any information you can get on claims against the city for tripping in a park since amalgamation. As far as I know, the claims for this are zero, but I need that confirmed.
As far as I can see, Sandy's approach has been as follows:
a) although she was told of the slip hazard in May 2006, she chose not to have the stairs built this year, following her predecessors' approach for the 10 years before
b) when park users saw that the City neglects to care for their safety, and they therefore took steps to lessen the slip hazard themselves, Sandy said this is not allowed and she wanted to "teach us a lesson" by ordering the stairs removed.
c) in summary: Sandy's position as expressed in her Dec.22 e-mail was: we will not address the problem in the time you asked, and we won't let you do it either.
This is unacceptable. I felt very offended at what Sandy said to me at the meeting this Tuesday -- choosing to carry out a kind of public dressing-down -- and I will work hard, with other park friends, to address her assumptions.
Please let me know if Adam would prefer to have phone calls to back up the petition.
Jutta you seem to have missed the point....there will be no reinstallation of those steps for any purpose..You must refrain from this type of action if you wish to work together for the betterment of the park.
The steps are illegal and reinstallation wuld be a violation of our agreement and the safety codes we identified.
Any Parks Forestry and Recreation staff that involve themselves in the reinstallaton for any purpose wll face possible disciplinary issues Anyone testing the steps and receiving an injury put us back to where we started......creating an unsafe public space. Removal of the safety fence to reinstall the steps is a serious violation that I would be forced to address.
Therefore the fence will stay without the stairs for public safety.
I have given no estimate what so ever on the cost as the design staff are discussing some problems with the site and design with me today.
We will share our design concepts when they are ready. The installation will be scheduling, weather and cost dependent.
I will keep everyone advised
We are not testing the steps. We are doing a visual installation so that people can see for themselves what you consider a danger. It will not be done by rec staff so there will be no one you need to discipline.
Please stop bullying me. And read my e-mails more slowly. This is what my last e-mail said (see also below):
Since Sandy does not want the stairs actually used, we'll need her fencing to remain up to prevent this.
I'm glad you have now responded to my question about the cost estimate. Someone said "under $10,000" and I thought it was you. I will now make it clear that it was not you. Please also respond to the other questions: you did say that the Home Depot stair removal cost you $2000 -- please itemize. And give us the relevant code regulations in writing so we can get our own consultations started.
Update: the steps are now back in, put there by CELOS volunteers, so that rink users can see what's at issue as they contribute their own suggestions. Your fencing was not removed to do this, and is entirely intact. In fact, it was tightened (since it was coming loose) and the yellow danger tape was mended and re-applied (it was vandalized by passersby, I guess, and was blowing around half-loose in the wind). So no one will use the stairs (which are only put in loosely now anyway, and therefore are not safe).
As to my violating an agreement -- a unilateral order is not an agreement. After the first time the fencing was put up to block the stairs, I sent you an e-mail asking for us to talk about it. You did not respond, and last week you explained why not -- "as the manager, I don't have to."
I think this current climate between you and me is not a good one. I would prefer us not to be enemies, and I think it would be good if we had a cup of coffee and tried to work out an understanding together.
I appreciate the offer to meet and discuss how we can make things better. I agree it is important to do this. I will try and call you to set up a time that works for both of us
Second I have had a number of chats with the design and construction folks and we think we have a pretty good plan to install the steps and deal with the slope issue. The boys will be by Wed morning to take down the fence and give you your steps . We should be able to get started fairly soon....once we review the design together. Hopefully the weather will hold a while longer.
Chris, here's the next update you requested -- the state of the Dufferin rink access stairs. No progress. Some people cling to the wall when they go up or down the City's interlock slope and others prefer to clamber up the snow-covered dirt, hanging on to the plastic fencing. Either way it's an adrenalin rush, for people trying not to slip and fall. All those petition signatures are still stuck onto the fence, slowly weathering. Lots of unhappy comments exchanged by rink users chatting in the rink house too. Still no copy of the code that made the City tear out those tidy little temporary stairs that were so useful while they lasted, and would have helped so much as soon as the snow arrived. That's why Belinda Cole is getting a bit more serious about her tort research.
The rec staff and I have come up with what we hope will be a solution to the stairs problem. Instead of ripping up the concrete slope in front of the rink house, we propose that Parks could install a gate in the fence on the North side (right next to the entrance onto the shinny pad).
This would solve the problem of the slippery slope by providing an easier access point for Park Users, the problem of overcrowding at busy events like the market, and it would help rec staff with snow and ice removal (in the spring when the ice is melting, that area is particularly difficult for drainage). Not to mention it would be less expensive and much easier to build.
I have measured the dimensions. Basically, we would need a mirror image of the smaller pedestrian gate on the south side (8ft tall, 4ft wide). There is a small concrete curb at the fence line that would have to be cut into. On the other side of the fence, it would only be about 10ft of asphalt to connect the gate to the pathway.
I hope that you will pass this option on to Sandy Straw or any other relevant Parks Management staff.
I will pass on your possible solution to Parks. Thanks for the input.
I will be at the Park this afternoon and look at this solution. On the face of it sounds promising.
An update on the stairs at Dufferin Rink:
1. still no copy of the relevant code from you
2. no design meeting yet
3. the ugly barrier is still up there, with the petition still flapping in the wind
4. Good news, though -- we have two very interesting suggestions for non-slip access design, one from a rink staff, one from a rink user/architect
Is it time to have a site meeting, with all the proposals on the table? (We would need the copy of the code too.)
I was just speaking to Doug Muir about the stairs this morning. I will check out everyones schedule and see what works for later this week or early next...we can get it all arranged so things are ready to go as soon as the weather cooperates.
I will have Liz try and set up the time.
As for the code materials, I was of the impression Chris and Peter were pulling this together.....Guys can you reply on this please?
The City's insurance policy that responds to claims of injury associated with the City of Toronto programs and activities, including its parks and recreation centres is the Commercial General Liability insurance policy. The policy provides coverage for all sums that the City may become legally obligated to pay for third party bodily injury and property damage losses arising directly or indirectly out of the services and activities of the City of Toronto.
The policy covers the City of Toronto and its various Boards and Agencies, as listed for coverage on the policy. The policy does not extend coverage to any individual group or organization that does not report to Council. In your example you noted in your e-mail in which a group of residents wanted to buy and install stairs at Dufferin Grove Park, the City's liability insurance policy would not extend coverage to the group of residents.
Prior to any group being allowed to make any installation in a City park, Parks, Forestry and Recreation would ensure that the group obtained the appropriate approvals and permits. The approval process in necessary to ensure that all installations are in compliance with all safety concerns and, if appropriate, the installation is constructed in accordance to the appropriate building codes. Further, Parks, Forestry and Recreation would ensure that the appropriate approval is issued with the understanding that the installation is maintained by the resident group and that the group maintains Commercial General Liability insurance. The process ensures that in the event of a claim of injury by the public using the stairs, the group will have the appropriate liability insurance to defend and pay for any claim of injury.
As discussed, if the resident group has made application to the City to install the stairs leading to the Home Depot and the stairs are owned by the City and maintained by City staff, the City's Commercial General Liability insurance policy will extend to cover the City and respond to any claim initiated by injured parties.
Chris, for your information, note that a volunteer under the terms and conditions of the City's Commercial General Liability insurance policy is a person that performs activities under the direct supervision and control of City staff and does not receive pay for those services.
Issue: Unauthorized and unsafe installation of a set of Home Depot stairs within Dufferin Grove park, initiated by Friends of Dufferin Grove.
Background: The following park maintenance projects were reviewed, priorized and agreed to by Friends of Dufferin Grove, Parks Manager and PDIM staff for the 2006 season: a) paving and reconstruction of the pathways around the rink with an additional piece to ensure a wide turn around for the Zamboni; b) reconfiguration of the north street side slope to include a stair access; c) set of stairs to be cut into the south west berm closest to the building to ease access to the program area from that section of the park.
Item a) was completed prior to the opening of the rink season as agreed
Item b) was delayed due to backlog of work in PDIM and was rescheduled for earliest convenience, weather permitting
Item c) was agreed by all to be moved to the 2007 schedule in time for summer operation
The actual date of installation seems unclear but is not relevant. Once the Parks Manager was advised she directed staff to secure the site as the steps were deemed safety hazards. As staff was installing the safety barrier and returned to the truck for safety tape Friends of Dufferin Grove took down the safety barrier.
Staff were directed to remove the stairs and ensure the remaining holes and loose brick walkway that had been installed, be secured with safety barrier until the work could be scheduled and a meeting take place with Councillors office, Friends of DG and Parks Manager / Supervisor and PDIM staff.
A petition campaign, initiated by FDG and negatively portraying PFR staff for removing the stairs, was set up on the safety barrier and on their website
A meeting took place on site with PDIM, Parks, Councillors office staff, Jutta Mason and a young man who had been involved in the construction. The relevant code violations were identified. It was stated very clearly by Parks Manager that members of the public could not take it upon themselves to build structures on City property with or without approval simply because they did not agree with the timing of the work.
Park and PDIM staff reviewed the site issues and possible design ideas with all present. Jutta Mason wanted to have a community design contest. PDIM and Parks met with design staff to determine requirements and agreed the work would commence as soon as weather permitted. Further, the design and timing will be reviewed with Friends of Dufferin Grove prior to work commencement. Complaints have been lodged by Friends of Dufferin Grove that the safety barrier is still up and does not look good. Given the weather no changes can be made to otherwise secure the site at this time
- A set of Home Depot steps was unsafely and without authority, installed on City property
- The risk to the public and code violations necessitated the removal of the stairs
- Staff will be reviewing the design ideas with Friends of Dufferin Grove
- Weather permitting, construction will commence as soon as possible
- The relevant code violations include Ontario Building Codes: 3. 4. 6. 4. (1); 22.214.171.124. (3); and 126.96.36.199. (d). the treads on the stairs had a 1:12 slope which does not conform to “ Good Trade Practice” and the landing was of various unevenly laid brick pieces.
- While PDIM and Parks staff appreciate ideas for the design, all final designs and construction must meet relevant codes and standards.
Before we can analyze the briefing documents, I need the information I have been asking for, for all these months, in the case of the stairs:
1. the code which the Parks manager says was violated re: the rink access steps
You may agree that these documents are critical information because of this statement from the Parks briefing note:
"legislative and other similar requirements of city employees are information for the public and not topics that may be revised at individual community meetings to reflect the varied interests or perspectives found within neighbourhoods."
Would you be able to try again, to get these legislative requirements? Negotiations can't really proceed when we are operating without having the text of the rules.
The Carpenter Foremen working in the South District had identified the following Building Code violations:
Code #188.8.131.52.(1) Handrails, An exit ramp or stairway shall have a handrail on at least one side, and if 1- 100mm ( 3 feet 7 ins.)or more in width shall have handrails on both sides.
Code#184.108.40.206.(3)Treads and risers in every exit stair,except a fire escape stair, shall have uniform run and riser in any one flight, and shall not alter significantly in run and rise in successive flights in any stair system.
Code # 220.127.116.11.(d)except as permitted in sentence(2),be spaced not more than 900mm (2ft. 11 ins.) o.c. for stairs serving not more than one dwelling unit, and 600mm ( 23 5/8 in.) o.c. in other stairs.
Since the stairs did not meet code, the City would have been liable for any accident that may have occurred by persons using the stairs.
This e-mail is puzzling since at the time the two Home Depot steps were ripped out and barricaded, we were told that there was no point of meeting with the building inspector since these steps didn't come under his authority. Could you send us the information on where we can find this building code, and who inspects outside stairways in parks? It's also puzzling since none of the park's other, much longer internal stairways (4 stairways) meet this code as stated here. Are there plans to rip them out or barricade them?
Would you be able to set up an on-site meeting to examine all the park's stairway issues? The meeting should include the relevant City inspector and also an analyst from the City's risk management section, especially since some new community suggestions for better pedestrian rink access also need to be evaluated. The inspector would assess the other park stairways at the same time.
Would it be possible to have such a site meeting within the next couple of weeks, to get these issues addressed and also to put up barriers at the longer parks stairways if necessary?
I have attached the Government of Ontario site for information on obtaining the latest version of the Ontario Building Code. Construction work must always meet the regulations and codes that are in effect at the time of building. The existing stairways would have had to conformed to the codes in effect at the time of their construction, but not necessary the codes in effect today. Regardless of this, safety always should be a concern, and any potential problems corrected.
I believe the issue here is to re-install a set of stairs and landings, that will satisfy all the issues. I don't see any reason why we can't accomplish this.
Could you oblige us by setting up a meeting to consider the relative weight of safety issues using Dufferin Grove Park as a sample park?
We're asking that the following sections be represented:
CELOS (our research group)
Councillor Giambrone's office
Any relevant City inspectors
We should talk about the rink access steps, the other stairs in the park, the water-run-off for the rink that freezes the public sidewalk, the route of the garbage truck that drives cross-country inside the park, the shingles falling off the field house roof, the partial submersion of the public path to the mall when there is rain, and the current mud-blocking of the wading pool with its one-foot-deep unguarded water.
I think there can be an amicable conversation that seeks to address the important issues of liability and prevention, as well as working out a better way of collaboration with the community.
Because of interest in the results of this meeting from other neighbourhoods, it would be good to have this meeting within the next three weeks if possible.