Drake General Store Pop-Up Hits Mount Dennis

The pop up shop concept (from Scadding Court site).

The Mount Dennis BIA is about to open a pop-up shop. Julia Maddin, Mount Dennis resident and General Manager of the Canadiana and Toronto themed Drake General Store downtown (not that Drake) will run a pop-up-shop in Mount Dennis this and next weekend. Working with Scadding Court’s BOB (Business Out of the Box) Project, the idea is operate a pop-up shop in Mount Dennis, under the lights of Nyctophilia at the corner of Weston Road and Dennis Avenue. While not quite the concept that we at Weston Web have been harping on about, it’s a good start that may lead to bigger and better things; especially if Mayor Tory’s excellent suggestion to tax vacant stores is adopted. Yes, even the Mayor gets things right sometimes.

When: December 10th to 11th between 11 am and 5 pm, December 17th to 18th between 11 am and 5 pm, and again for the BIA’s Winter Solstice Event on Wednesday, December 21st from 6-8 pm. 10% of all proceeds will go back into the community.

Tory defends the indefensible.

Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.
Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.

An interesting little charade was taking place yesterday in Weston. The Mayor and Councillor Nunziata were here to extol the virtues of keeping property taxes low. Never mind that Toronto’s budget is facing a $516 million shortfall next year and that Council has a backlog of $33 billion in capital projects with possibly $11 billion still to be added for transportation. Never mind that in our city, the average detached home owner occupies a $1.66 million home.

To support the Mayor and Councillor’s viewpoint,  a press conference was arranged in front of Weston resident Dave Bennett’s lovely home where Dave was quoted as saying that his property tax bill is ‘one of the biggest bills he gets’. Tory chimed in to state that property taxes were good for things like services but shouldn’t go towards capital expenditures (presumably like his completely useless $3 billion one-stop subway in Scarborough that we’re already paying for via a 0.5% property tax levy).

This is the mayor, aided and abetted by our own councillor who would rather cut city services across the board by 2.6% than impose a meaningful property tax increase. When services are cut, it’s the poor who suffer the most. TTC cuts, library cuts, parks cuts, police cuts, social program cuts and public housing budget cuts affect the poor disproportionally. Also look for user fees to be increased in the new year. In the meantime, those of us who own a home, from the most humble of condos in Rexdale to palatial mansions in Rosedale are spared an above-inflation increase in the lowest property taxes in the Province. Coming soon, (and this apparently is a good thing) tolls will be imposed on drivers using the Don Valley and Gardiner routes into town but instead of boosting the TTC budget in anticipation of higher passenger loads, a 2.6% budget reduction will ensure that fares are higher, routes are cut and buses and subways are crowded and even more uncomfortable.

Interestingly, York South Weston’s Ward 11 residents paid only $35 million in property tax last year compared to Toronto Centre-Rosedale whose residents paid $151 million. Most of Weston’s residents would dearly love to be in the fortunate position of directly paying property taxes* and contributing to the City’s budget but unfortunately they can’t afford to buy a home. User fees and transit costs will rise and programs designed to help people better themselves and eventually move onto the property ladder are being gutted by this idiotic strategy.

All this so that John Tory can say he didn’t raise property taxes above inflation and be re-elected in 2018.

Here’s an article and video of yesterday’s event from CP24.

*A whole other article; renters indirectly pay triple the rate that homeowners pay.

Is it time to panic?

When you say “Don’t panic!” the first thing everyone does is panic. So let me try this: Don’t worry!

There have been five-or-so shootings in Weston’s downtown this year, clustering around Lions Park. This week saw another: a young man was shot near Weston Road shootings-at-lpand Bellevue. At least some of the shootings are related.
crime

Should we worry? Sure. Should we panic? Nah.


Gun crime across the city has risen dramatically. In the past four years, gunplay has more than doubled, from 185 incidents in 2014 to 382 so far this year.

What is behind it? Mayor Tory says gangs. Doubtless, this is true. But 2013 was the safest year Toronto has seen in decades and 2014 and 2015 were not far behind.

Gun crime, therefore, is also increasing because it had nowhere to go but up. The statistically-inclined call this regression to the mean.

Global cities ranking of safety, from The Economist
Global cities ranking of safety, from The Economist

But, you say, “Things are getting worse! I’m out of here! Weston is going down the tubes!”

Toronto is the safest city in the world. Every single place you could move would be less safe than here. Meditate on that. You’d be jumping from the fat to the fire.

Perhaps you were planning a move to another neighbourhood within Toronto—moving to somewhere safer among the safest. That, at least, is logical.

But where? Is anywhere safe?

Riverdale map
Rivers of *blood*

I was in Riverdale yesterday. Nice ‘hood! Boutique cheese and a restaurant that serves only bacon sandwiches. Really! Shame about the gun crime, though: 9 shootings and three homicides. Weirdly, everybody there seems cool with it. Perhaps they like a little gritty cred with their peameal and gorg.

Junction Triangle
Time for another rebranding, Junction Triangle.

I moved to Weston from the up-and-coming Junction Triangle. I suppose I should be glad I did! There were two shootings at the end of my old street, and a murder where I used to walk my dog. Weird then that the property values have gone bonkers.

Perhaps you’re considering a move across the river, to genteel Etobicoke. Don’t! That’d be moving into Fallujah! It’s a war zone on Scarlett: 12 shootings and a homicide!

etobicoke map
Scarlett with BLOOD.

“Wait”, you say, “12 shootings in Etobicoke? Nobody mentioned that on the Ceeb! How come?”

‘Confirmation bias’ is the notion that we seek out and remember evidence for our preexisting beliefs–in this case that Weston is a rough neighbourhood and the recent spate of crime proves it.

I haven’t heard anybody saying that Etobicoke is going to hell. That is because Etobicokians, unlike us, aren’t primed for confirmation bias. They’re not looking for evidence to support their prejudices. Etobicokians brush off shootings as anomalies; Westonians see them as evidence.


Look, I won’t lie to you. There are safer parts of town. You could move to Rosedale or Baby Point. There is almost no gun crime there. The rich are practically immune from it.shootings

So say you want to sell your condo and buy a fridge box in Rosedale. Should you? Well, you would be selling in panic, in a statistically abnormal year. I won’t tell you how to spend your money, but if you do decide to sell, call me first. Because I’d be buying in Weston, not unloading. Things get better, slowly, and erratically to be sure, but better.

Keep some perspective. Reader, you are very, very unlikely to be affected by violent crime. Don’t flatter yourself: nobody cares about you enough to shoot you.

One more thing:  It is much cheaper to lobby and push for change than it is to up and run. Character is expensively bought, but cheaply sold. (And real estate fees are 6% plus a land transfer tax.) You’re better off, and a better person, if you

  • Volunteer to help young people.
  • Call your councillor, MPP, and MP and ask what they are doing about crime.
  • Make a friend in the neighbourhood.
  • Report concerns and call in crimes.
  • Lobby for funding, jobs, transit, training, rec centres, increased taxes on the rich, more generous transfers to the poor, lower tuition, higher minimum wages and so on.
  • Join a club. Visit the Legion. Have a drink in the Army & Navy Club (if you dare; it’s off Scarlett!). Borrow a dog and go for a walk.

Our community makes Weston safe. Our community makes Weston great.

 

 

Community Centre Opening Delayed – again.

For those not on Councillor Nunziata’s email list, news has arrived that the opening of the long awaited community centre will be further delayed. The expensive Centre at Eglinton and Black Creek has been tantalizing passing drivers for months as it looks very close to completion.

The word is that the opening will occur sometime towards the end of this year or early next. The opening date has been pushed back several times already and this latest delay is another blow to those in the fortunate position of actually being able to access the facility (mainly drivers).

Major Weston Property Deal Being Cooked…Ramifications all round

Ever since Scotiabank pulled the plug on its Weston and Lawrence location, speculation has been mounting regarding the future of the corner site. It’s a bit of a historic building in its own right and might even be preserved in some form when redevelopment inevitably takes place.

When the discussions (Charettes) around planning for the UP Express were taking place back in 2011-12, the site was bandied about as having a possible future institutional use – perhaps a community college (George Brown) or a YMCA facility – later deep-sixed by the YMCA themselves. George Brown’s objection was that without all day GO Train service, the location would not be considered. Now that we have (a sort of) all-day service and as an added bonus the newly affordable UP Express, perhaps the college will reconsider but it may be too late.

Next door to the Scotiabank site, the Weston Park Baptist Church (WPBC) community has made no secret that they would be interested in selling up, together with their parking lot received as a donation several years ago. They also expressed an interest in being part of any new development of the site. Incidentally, the WPBC parking lot saved the Farmers Market’s bacon earlier this season when in spite of years of advanced notice, Metrolinx puzzlingly fell mute on permission to use the UP Express parking lot on Saturdays. At short notice, Weston Park’s minister saved the day and the market was able to operate on WPBC land until Metrolinx’s vast bureaucracy was prodded into spitting out the necessary paperwork.

Added together, these two locations plus any land that Metrolinx throws in, would form a site with considerable development potential. In the original Charette plans, it was deemed that the street frontages of any new buildings on Weston and Lawrence would be low to mid-rise while anything built further back from Weston Road near the tracks could go higher. Rumour has it that a deal has been in the works for some time and that once the details are carved in stone, the public will be invited to comment.

IMG_0002
The site as imagined in 2012.

We all know by now that City building guidelines go out the window whenever a developer offers a few crumbs to the community so cynical readers will know to expect some tall residential buildings on that corner. Add a rubber stamp from the ever-so-accommodating Weston Village Residents’ Association (representing a tiny fraction of the thousands of people in Weston) and yet another golden opportunity will have been lost.

One side-effect of having the WPBC parking lot out of commission is that in 2018, the Farmers Market will be dragged kicking and screaming back to a much smaller space in the newly built and pristine Weston Hub. Unlike the current set-up, space will be at a premium so traders’ vehicles will have to be parked relatively far away. Traders are very unhappy about this. Removing the WPBC parking lot as an alternate site will reduce the possibility of a mutiny on the part of these traders, a feisty and vociferous bunch who have enjoyed increased sales at the more visible Weston Road location and are murmuring about boycotting the new Hub site. This lack of an alternative location will be a win for Councillor Nunziata who would have some ‘splainin’ to do if the ‘Farmers’ were able to boycott the new digs. It still remains to be seen whether or not the traders (some of whom are actual farmers) will be able to fit into the smaller spaces more suited to selling pickled condiments than pumpkins and unshucked corn.

Whatever happens, you can guarantee that the people who actually live, work and shop in Weston will be the last ones to be consulted or informed.

Open the damned footbridge already!

The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.
The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.

Somehow, bureaucrats at Metrolinx and the City of Toronto have been having a little standoff over who exactly should do what in terms of maintenance and other responsibilities when the footbridge connecting the two isolated sections of John Street finally opens. They don’t give a damn that people are being inconvenienced after years of construction dirt and noise. God forbid they would do the decent thing and open it under a temporary understanding. No, these two unaccountable behemoths would rather the public be held hostage while they slap each other privately with their white gloves.

May I point out to the warring parties that the people who own the damned bridge are sick and tired of excuses for the lack of action. You couldn’t even agree to get the bridge to cross all the tracks! Get the damned thing open. Oh and by the way, politicians and other assorted hangers on, don’t you dare have a ribbon cutting to take the ‘credit’ for opening the bridge two years late! I promise to be there with a bullhorn if you do.

Let’s re-think cars on our streets.

The winning photo from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.
The winning entry from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.

Adam’s article on bike licensing has hit the nail on the head.

Right wing councillors such as Junior Holyday™ and our own Ms. Nunziata are keen to have lower taxes and lower government intervention but only when it suits their own personal agendas. When it comes to protecting the status of cars and therefore their own personal travel times, bureaucratic expansion and government regulation are deemed to be essential tools, hence the suggestion to license bicycles, the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. The only rationale offered seems to be that there are reckless cyclists who break the rules. As Adam has pointed out, scofflaw cyclists pose very little threat, unlike scofflaw drivers who check their messages, mascara, shave or have a meal while imposing their presence, air and noise pollution through the city.

Motor vehicles are a hideous, expensive and dangerous blight on society and unfortunately, we have built our communities to the point where they are a necessary evil. Public transportation has been denied priority and is starved of funding so that it is slow, overcrowded and uncomfortable. Mayor John Tory’s idiotic request to the TTC for a 2.6% budget reduction speaks to the pervasive ‘cart before the horse’ mentality at City Hall.
If Councillors Holiday, Nunziata and other like-minded representatives were forced to use public transportation in order to attend to their duties at City Hall, can you imagine how quickly the TTC would improve?

Amazingly, Toronto is the only major city in the world without a year-round pedestrian-only street. Think about it; that doesn’t happen accidentally. Similarly, in our own neck of the woods, Weston has no dedicated bike lanes on any of its streets. It’s largely thanks to our representatives who seem to be mentally stuck in an episode of Happy Days.

As the winning photo from the Complete Streets competition illustrates, cars spoil the environment in our cities. Unfortunately the photo was not taken in Toronto. It was taken in Porto San Giorgio, Italy. The second place photograph was taken in Toronto and looks pathetic in comparison. The other Toronto photographs are embarrassing in comparison to what is being achieved in major cities around the world. We have nothing remotely like the Italian example on any street in Toronto.

Toronto's example is from a temporary art project on John Street downtown.
The runner-up photograph, taken in Toronto is of a temporary art project on John Street downtown.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that cars have jumped the shark and that walking, bicycles and public transit are our future.