2019-10-31 by W.M.
Alphabet scales back its smart city project in Toronto after backlash
Waterfront Toronto, the government agency overseeing the development, announced Thursday that it has agreed to evaluate Alphabet’s plans after major concessions from the tech company, including a much smaller plot of land for the development and less control over data. The agreement keeps Alphabet’s project alive.
“They asked for too much land, too much control over data, and too much control over governance,” said Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councilman who sits on Waterfront Toronto’s board of directors. “These are significant changes that make taking the next step possible. Without them, we would have had a responsibility to say ‘no’.”
“This project has been de-fanged,” tweeted Bianca Wylie, a Toronto activist and critic of the project.
Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation subsidiary of Alphabet, said in a statement that it was pleased with Waterfront Toronto’s decision.
“We are working to demonstrate an inclusive neighbourhood here in Toronto where we can shorten commute times, make housing more affordable, create new jobs, and set a new standard for a healthier planet,” Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a statement.
Hurdles still remain before Alphabet can break ground. There will be more public consultation, such as open forums to discuss the project, in early 2020. Waterfront Toronto will make its ultimate decision by the end of March.
“There is still much work to do,” said Stephen Diamond, Chair of the Waterfront Toronto board of directors. “Let me be clear: this is not a done deal.”