Toronto Green Space with a View of the CN Tower: Source

Toronto is known as a city of neighbourhoods: it is a city of 152 of them, in fact. This includes many that are well-known to locals and Torontophiles alike: The Danforth. Little Italy. Kensington-Chinatown. The Beaches (or is the the Beach?) Not to mention many more.  Toronto also refers to itself as a ‘city within a park’. This begs the question, how park-like is each neighbourhood? 

To this end, I decided to calculate the percentage of each neighbourhood that is designated as green space. To determine this, I downloaded both the Green Spaces and Neighbourhoods data from the City of Toronto Open Data Portal, then ran a series of GIS analyses in QGIS. I did not filter for types of green spaces, so in addition to parks, other uses such as cemeteries and golf courses have the potential to raise a neighbourhood’s percentage . Below are the top five greenest neighbourhoods in Toronto, along with the bottom five. 

Top 5

5) Rockcliffe-Smythe (36.29%): Number five is this neighbourhood in west Toronto centred along Jane Street. Home to a large population of Portuguese and Spanish speakers, Rockcliffe-Smythe’s most notable green spaces include centrally located Smythe Park, Scarlett Mills Park along the neighbourhood’s western boundary and several golf courses, including Lambton Golf and Country Club and Scarlett Woods Golf Course. 
4) Lansing-Westgate (37.91%):  Located in North York along the Don River and characterised by post-war bungalows, Lansing-Westgate is the fourth most sylvan neighbourhood per this analysis. The neighbourhood features several large green spaces, such as Earl Bales Park, York Cemetary, and the north half of the Don Valley Golf Course.
3) Morningside (39.15%): Located in northeast Toronto and lying just to the south of Highway 401, the Morningside neighbourhood ranks third. Here you will find Morningside Park, Toronto’s largest municipal park, which straddles Highland Creek. Part of the extensive Scarborough Hydro Green Space also intersects the neighbourhood. If that wasn’t already enough, other sizable parks such as Seven Oaks, Ellesmere Reservoir, and Botany Hill fit snuggly within Morningside’s boundaries.
2) Elms-Old Rexdale (42.76%): On the other side of town in Etobicoke is Elms-Old Rexdale. Portions of the extensive West Humber Parkland line the east and north boundary of the neighbourhood. Another large green space, Pine Point Park, provides a connection point to the larger Humber River Recreation Trail. And for good measure, Humber Valley Golf Course offers golf lovers the chance to test their skills in a park-like setting.
1) Morningside Heights (69.14%): Not far from our third ranked neighbourhood, number one is Morningside Heights. Nearly 70% of this neighbourhood is comprised of green spaces. Rouge National Urban Park operated by Parks Canada occupies much of the neighbourhood. Featuring hiking, camping, and an array of winter activities, Rouge Park is unique within Toronto. Another star attraction in Morningside Heights is the Toronto Zoo, the largest zoo in Canada.
The five Toronto neighbourhoods with the greatest percentage of green space.

Bottom 5

148) LITTLE PORTUGAL (1.87%): With over 50% of residents identifying as Portuguese, Little Portugal lives up to its name. Under 2% of the neighbourhood, however, identifies as green space. The largest green space in the neighbourhood is McCormick Park, which at 1.5 hectares nevertheless includes many of the amenities you could ask for from a park: playgrounds, wading pool, and baseball fields, among others. 

149) DANFORTH (1.02%): The Danforth is well-known as one of Toronto’s dining and shopping destinations. It is also known as the centre of Toronto’s Greek community. However, with just over 1% of this neighbourhood made up of green space, it might not be the best place in Toronto to seek a quiet rest on the grass under a grand tree. The largest green space within the Danforth neighbourhood is the Earl Beatty Community Centre, which includes a soccer field, but primarily features indoor activities, such as a gymnasium and an indoor pool.

150) NORTH TORONTO (0.865%): One of Toronto’s newly designated neighbourhoods, North Toronto lies south of Keewatin Avenue, north of Eglinton Avenue, and sandwiched between Yonge and Mount Pleasant roads to the west and east, respectively. The City of Toronto green spaces dataset suggests that the neighbourhood’s largest green space is Redpath Avenue Parkette, but a visual inspection suggests that 85 Keewatin Avenue Park might be larger in reality than the dataset shows. 

151) UNIVERSITY (0.72%):  The University neighbourhood encompasses the University of Toronto’s Saint George Campus. Home to Canada’s leading research university, the University neighbourhood features several small green spaces such as Matt Cohen Park, Margaret Fairley Park, and Huron-Washington Parkette. No doubt this neighbourhood rates so low as campus green spaces such as Trinity Field, Back Campus, and Philosopher’s Walk are not included in the City of Toronto green spaces dataset.

152) RUNNYMEDE-BLOOR WEST VILLAGE (0.69%): This neighbourhood takes its name from the Bloor West Shopping District that mark its south boundary and from the residential area of Runnymede that lies to the north. Comprised of well under 1% green space, Runnymede-Bloor West Village finishes 152nd out of 152 Toronto neighbourhoods in this analysis. Beresford and Neil McLellan Parks, as well as the George Chater Parkette, are small green spaces that can be found in the southeastern part of this neighbourhood. 

The five Toronto neighbourhoods with the smallest percentage of green space.

To encourage more detailed discovery, I have included a basic web-map that allows you to zoom, pan, and identify each neighbourhood

This analysis generates as many questions as it answers. How would the analysis change if only parks were analysed? How would a neighbourhood’s “green” score change if a buffer were applied to find parks within walking distance of a particular neighbourhood?. In this scenario, it is easy to imagine that certain underachieving neighbourhoods located close to a large park might rocket up the rankings. It is also worth asking if the neighbourhood level is truly an optimal size for such an analysis. Do people frequently confine themselves to neighbourhood boundaries when seeking green spaces?

Interestingly, the neighbourhoods that finished towards the bottom of this ranking are some of the most desirable areas in the city. Perhaps quality and not only quantity needs to be appraised for better results.  I hope, however, that this offers an interesting starting point for analysis of the equity of green space in Toronto and portrays green space in a way that has not been presented to readers before.

I did this analysis as the launchpad for learning the PyQGIS API. I first did the analysis using QGIS processing tools, and then replicated the result using PyQGIS. My code is available on GitHub. Anyone who wants to run the analysis using the Python Console in QGIS is welcome to give it a whirl. As my coding skills evolve, I hope to create a QGIS plug-in that will provide greater utility and functionality. Click here to go to the GitHub repository.