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.

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.

Bike licensing is dead

From the city's  Virtual Reference Library
From the city’s Virtual Reference Library

Politics has gone mad: crazy, populist ideas now regularly trample thoughtfulness and reason. You might be pleasantly surprised, therefore, to hear that city politicians did something smart: they killed a plan to license bikes.

Our own councillor, however, who has long supported licensing, continues—against all evidence—to champion this dumb idea.

Earlier this year, Stephen Holyday asked the city to look (again) at licensing bikes, although is has done so several times and even has a FAQ on the topic. In short, licenses lose money, kids ride, and licensing—despite all the knee-jerking—is quite unnecessary: cyclists can be ticketed just fine without a license. (I should know.)

In the course of the debate at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, another really good point came up: a license is a regressive tax on the cheapest and best transportation:

And that, of course, is the real reason reactionaries want to license bikes: they want to discourage cycling.¹

Politicians can have long careers giving people things they like and passing laws against things they don’t—never minding the facts or principle. Bicyclists bug civilians. I know why: it’s because we’re better. We’re faster, fitter, richer, and happier. Clearly, then, our smugness should be banned.

And yes, we are unpredictable. We are dangerous. Can I tell you something? I ride without a helmet. I ride the wrong way. I ride fast, with headphones in, weaving and taking up lanes when I want to. I cut cars off. I turn left from the left turn lane. I give bad drivers the finger. And I’ve been doing it for decades. Do you know how many people I’ve hurt?



The truth is this: cars are dangerous to other people. Bikes are not. Bikes are kind to other people. We need more bikes, not fewer. We need to encourage them, not license them, not tax them.

Let’s hope this is the last time we hear of any dumb licensing scheme.²

¹The rest of this post is edited from a comment I left on Facebook; I said it well then when I wasn’t tired and overworked.

²And don’t even start: if I hear one more time that cyclists should “pay their fair share”, I’m going to key a Caddy. That is such bullshit.

Drivers should pay for pollution. They should pay for foreign wars, climate change, resource depletion, coastal spills, urban sprawl, visual blight, noise, ruined neighbourhoods, starless skies and interrupted street hockey too.

You know what I need to make it downtown on my bike? 45 minutes, a handful of chips, and a dirt path.

Pay my share? Oh, gladly.

More on the Mount Dennis Generator

Image from:

Steve Munro is a tireless blogger who is an authoritative voice on transit and politics in the GTA. He recently posted an article about the proposed Mount Dennis generator and some interesting points have emerged in his article and also in the comments section. As an aside, comments sections are IMHO as interesting and sometimes as informative as the articles to which they are attached.

Readers are no doubt aware that late last year, Metrolinx and its partner Crosslinx Transit Solutions proposed that an 18MW gas-powered generator be built to supply electricity in the extremely rare event of a Toronto Hydro outage. Later proposals designed to soften the blow claimed that heat could be recovered from the generator and used for heating purposes.

Steve maintains that the heat recovery idea could only be useful if the generator was operating regularly rather than the claimed (by Metrolinx) use as a standby. Also, according to Metrolinx, only one of the 6 generators would be used for heat recovery while the other 5 would be untouched.

He received information from Metrolinx stating that:

An alternative (to the gas powered generator) would have to provide the same basic functional requirements as the proposed natural gas powered facility.

The gas-powered facility was proposed in order to provide the ability to maintain service when the power goes out and improve transit resilience, lower the cost of power by eliminating any contribution to peak power demand from the new system, and ensuring it does not contribute to the need for more transmission or generation infrastructure.

Steve notes that there are several electric train systems coming on line and Metrolinx stated that there is already an ample electrical supply for these trains. He concludes that the main goal of the generator is to reduce electricity costs rather than provide an emergency backup.

In the comments, one reader suggests that in a true emergency, gas supply is only guaranteed for 3 hours. Another points out that the natural gas supply relies on line pumps which need electricity from the grid. Yet another states that running the whole line from one generator is impractical because of the voltage drop that would occur over the 19km length of the Crosstown Line.

Apparently the generating system at Pearson Airport sells power to the grid at peak times and this income pays for its operating and maintenance costs. The generator is fired up every week to ensure that it is reliable (i.e. at least 52 days a year) and supplies the airport with power on those days. Because the airport covers a relatively small area, transmission losses are minimal (unlike along a 19km transit line).

Incidentally, the last time power was knocked out to Terminals One and Three back in February, the emergency system failed to operate, leaving much of Pearson in the dark.

Read Steve Munro’s article here.

Weston Station Restaurant up for sale


Being of a cautious nature with a strong preservation instinct I have always resisted the temptation to wander into the Weston Station Restaurant for a meal or even a story. The building, at 1935 Weston Road in downtown Weston has had a checkered history but is now for sale and with that, the prospect of new ownership. Apparently there is 6600 square feet of floor space with 14 tenants upstairs (who knew?) and a restaurant and licensed bar downstairs.

The listing is on and can be yours for a dollar shy of $2 million.

My Cup Runneth Over


This disgusting sight seems to be a permanent fixture on Bellevue just behind some stores on Weston Road. The trash appears to be an accumulation of food waste and it routinely spills out and spreads over the surrounding area. Perhaps those responsible should pay a bit more and rent a larger dumpster. Either way, this is a health hazard as it encourages vermin such as rats. It also detracts from the neighbourhood being just steps from the large apartment building at number 5, the Farmers Market and the GO Train / UP Express.