Love Letter to Weston

So long, Weston. I will miss you.

Various members of my extended family have lived here since we bought the house in 1992, some 28 years ago. It is by far the longest I have lived anywhere.

As a boy scout years ago, I was taught to always leave your campsite in better shape than you found it. I hope we have done that with our house and our community. Our house had a 100 foot by 20 foot crushed stone driveway. We installed interlocking brick and gardens for much of that space. Our house was painted pink. We painted it a lovely light yellow. Our house had a rotting deck. We put in a large stone veranda. We replaced a dilapidated two car garage with a windowed workshop. We created tree and flower gardens everywhere we could. Inside the house we remodeled kitchen and baths, added hardwood, a fireplace, furnace and A/C.

We made tremendous friends with our neighbours. Many were the summer evenings when, fresh from projects or gardening, various neighbours and their children would bring whatever they were cooking and we would have a communal dinner over a few beers or some wine. Every December for 27 years, 4 or 5 neighbours would conduct a ‘walk around dinner’ where each course happened in each home, and we walked between them. These dinners originally lasted until the wee smalls of the next morning, though as we got older we started yawning well before midnight.

We made friends with neighbours further afield, as we discovered ‘causes’ that needed attention. First the hospital expansion when Northwestern closed, then the potential renaming of all our streets when amalgamation happened, and then the advent of ‘Blue 22’, and then the notion of electric trains. It was through those neighbour networks that committees and coalitions grew, and Weston faced down bad ideas. Nowhere before or since has a community managed to get 2500 people to come to an Environmental Assessment meeting! We shamed GO Transit and their lackey SNC Lavalin (or maybe vice-versa) Those efforts resulted in massive changes to the benefit of Weston – we got – a stop on the Airport line meaning a 15 minute trip to downtown – a tunnel with a grassy lid which in turn saved a school from relocating – a pedestrian bridge over the tracks – a pedestrian bridge over Lawrence – noise abating walls in many locations – and eventually reduced fares. Some things are still incomplete – some noise walls, electrification, and hopefully full integration of the airport line with ttc, meaning ttc fares. But imagine what it would have looked like if the town of Weston had not risen up and demanded better!

Those causes and those friendships ultimately led to me running for federal office, once successfully. I am so proud of the work of my staff and I helping thousands of people. Even after I lost the election in 2015 one of my staffers continued to work on the case of a woman whose children had been accidentally left off her visa application 15 years earlier – and she was finally reunited with her children, in Canada, when as a result of my staff’s work the immigration department finally relented and allowed the mistake to be corrected.

So now the house is sold, and we moved out today this summer. The house needs to have children in it, as it did for so many of its years. As we age, we are finding the many stairs more difficult, and it is really too big for just three of us. Weston had a small-town feel to it, so we are going to try another small town in Ontario for a while, renting until the Covid pandemic eases enough to allow us to choose a place and a house to suit a downsizing aging family.

I will miss so much of this place and its inhabitants. I loved being able to walk almost anywhere around and be recognized by people whose names I cannot remember, and striking up a conversation. I loved the cohesiveness of the townsfolk, who collectively act more than any town I know. I loved the natural beauty on our doorstep, with the wide majestic parkland surrounding the Humber. I loved the historical preservation that was part of our community. I loved the generosity – donating time, effort, and money to all the little causes that we needed to advance. I loved the neighbour’s night outs in Elm park.

Weston, you are a gem. We enjoyed our time here. We will miss you.

New signals on Eglinton at Pearen Park

At the Jan 8 Community Council Meeting, another item of note was the decision to install a pedestrian traffic signal across Eglinton at Pearen Park. Residents have long complained about the danger of crossing between the signals at Jane or Weston Rd (a distance of 800 metres). Roads and Traffic have in the past refused to permit a safe crossing, citing concern that it would slow traffic on Eglinton.
However, a death in 2017 caused the councillor to ask again, and this time they agreed. However, their recommendation is that it wait until 2021, and only if ‘competing priorities’ don’t get the money first ($120,000).
As reported by Simon Chamberlain, former chair of the Mount Dennis Community Association, the city advised that they are hamstrung by new rules imposed by the province that seriously limits the number of contractors the city can use to do such work. Apparently there is, as a result, a huge backlog of signal installation.
One would think that the safety of pedestrians would trump any provincial meddling. Vison Zero cannot be successful if intersections such as this one cannot be made safe. And what ‘competing priority’ is more important than the death of a pedestrian? The councillor can be reached at 416-392-4091, should you wish to urge her to order the installation sooner.

Weston Development (29 Storeys)

At the Community Meeting about the proposal for the development at the Greenland Farms site (Weston and Little Ave.), the developer’s agent tried to justify the immense building on the basis of the province’s plans to increase development around ‘Major Transit Stations’.  Weston GO station (as long as we keep our GO trains) is such a Major Transit Station.  The new provincial plans (now called ‘A Place to Grow’) require a planned density of 150 persons and jobs per hectare (1/100 of a square kilometre) around GO Stations.  From the city of Toronto, this definition:

So, what does this mean for Weston?  First, the 500 metre radius looks like this.

The Greenland Farms development will clearly be within that circle which extends north to almost King, south to part of Sykes, east along Lawrence to Pine, and west to just into Etobicoke.

But the real question is, how much density do we need to achieve the provincial plan?  Do we really need to permit several 29 and 36 storey towers?

The answer can be found in the 2016 Census.  Here is a map of the west part of Toronto with densities in different colours – dark blue being the densest.

The Census data is in persons per square kilometre.  Weston is already the densest part of the west end, with the possible exception of part of Dixon Road.  And the densities of the areas closest to the proposed development are already substantially more than 150 persons per hectare, not counting any jobs which may exist.

By small census areas, here are the actual densities.

35204426 – West side of Weston Road, Little to St. Phillips – Density 153.3 persons per hectare

35204415 – East side of Weston Road, King to John to tracks – Density 181.73 persons per hectare

35204414 – North side of Lawrence to John St, Little to tracks – Density 177.57 persons per hectare

35204413 – South side of Lawrence, Hickory Tree to Weston Rd. – Density 292.12 persons per hectare

35204412 – South side of Lawrence, Weston to Pine and south to Denison – Density 69.19 persons per hectare

35204411 – West side of Weston Rd., Bellevue to Wright – Density 133.72 persons per hectare.

The 2016 census was before the building at 22 John was occupied.  So the density is already greater.  And the count does not include jobs, which takes the count even higher.

Weston is already plenty dense enough.  Developers cannot point to the provincial growth plan and claim a right to make it denser.  Even the legally allowed 8 storey maximum for development on Weston Road would significantly increase the density.

The city can and should say no to any more monstrous buildings in Weston. And defend such decision at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (successor to the OMB) should the developers appeal.  Developers who thought we’d be an easy mark can think again.

Twenty-Nine Storeys and 240 Metres.

At the Jan 8 Community Council meeting, councilors accepted the report of the city planning department regarding the proposed 29 storey twin-tower development at Weston and Little Ave.(the Greenland Farms site). The report essentially said the plans were too much for the current zoning and official plan, but planning will work with the developer on amending the plans. Councillor Nunziata amended the motion to add that another community meeting should be held prior to any new reports about this development being given to the Community Council, with notices to land owners and residents within 240 metres of the development, at the expense of the developer.
Two Hundred and Forty Metres is not very far. It gets south to Lawrence, east to the train tracks, west to the park, and north to King St. No notices to old Weston, nor to the apartment dwellers at the twin towers, nor 5 Bellevue, nor 29 South Station. The councilor did reserve the right to expand the notice boundary.

Metrolinx Woes

Where to start?

Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood.  Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards).  It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city.  There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.

UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city.  The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70.  Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor).  The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO.  I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question.  I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.

Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some.  Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use.  They now have 8 locomotives.  But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener.  When challenged, they said they’d check again.  Still waiting.

Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke.  None were installed.  Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built.  But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls.  If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something.  In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John.  Nothing installed there.  No excuse given.  And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets.  Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.

Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment.  Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA.  Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality.  Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality.  Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.

The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls.  We shall see what happens next.