Another local cannabis store announced.

This distinctive building at Weston and Eglinton is soon to be the home of another retail cannabis outlet under the Hobo Cannabis Company brand. The company seems to be based in Western Canada. The Weston location is one of fifteen Ontario outlets announced today by the company.

The latest cannabis store will be at 1161 Weston Road. From Google Maps.

I’ve always wondered about the purpose of the glass structure on the front.

Air pollution an issue in YSW.

Megan Delaire has written an article about traffic related air pollution (TRAP) in toronto.com today and the accompanying gif is a telling reminder of why the shift to electric vehicles cannot come soon enough for the health of people living in Toronto near major highways and downtown.

The article uses a gif that rotates a series of four images showing the levels of four pollutants measured and published in 2017.

The gif showing the four maps.

Here are the four individual maps in a static format so they can be viewed more easily. York South-Weston is outlined in red. It’s clear that the greater volumes of traffic on the 401 and downtown create more TRAP. The first two maps show particulate matter in two sizes. Small particles are insidious because they can irritate the lungs. The smaller the particles, the bigger the risk to health.

Read more on particulate matter here and here

 

Nitrogen Dioxide is a pollutant that irritates the respiratory system and can trigger asthma.

More on Nitrogen Dioxide here.

 

Benzene is a particularly nasty chemical associated with gasoline. More on benzene here.

It’s clear from the maps that living near major highways provides a greater exposure to contaminants. Noise is just one of the toxic by-products of major highways. The faster we can move to electric vehicles, the better for our health. More on TRAP from the University of Toronto here.

Megan promises a follow-up article describing what can be done to reduce TRAP levels. Read the article here.

 

What does a good apartment building look like?

If you’re in the market for a condo apartment or just deciding whether a proposed condo will be good for the neighbourhood, here’s a look at the features a good apartment should have in the 2020s.

Weston and Mount Dennis are seeing a flurry of building proposals, most of which involve apartment towers. Weston is in the unenviable position of already having some great examples of what not to build. Hopefully we can learn from these examples and do better.

Apartment interiors:
A one-bedroom apartment should provide a minimum of 500 square feet of year-round living space, a two-bedroom apartment 750 square feet and a three-bedroom above 1200 square feet. A good open-plan layout with ample space and a fully-featured kitchen is the preferred design these days. Bedrooms used to be placed in their own section with a corridor. Nowadays, thanks to space constraints, corridors have gone and bedrooms are often scattered around the living room rather than in one area. Bedrooms should be designed to accommodate student study spaces.
There should be in-apartment storage space for things like a stroller or mobility scooter.
An in-unit washer and dryer is a major convenience.
Balconies can be a great feature of an apartment, allowing access to sunshine, fresh air and perhaps some vegetables in the summer.
Apartments should allow for flexibility so that they can adapt as a family’s needs change.

Noise and odour proofing:
Noise is a big issue in many buildings. Back in the last century I lived in an apartment building where my upstairs neighbour could often be heard using the bathroom – right down to the last squirt. Not great when you’re having dinner with friends. Hardwood / vinyl / laminate floors are preferred to carpeting these days – they’re better from a cleanliness and allergy standpoint. Carpets were once part of the soundproofing system for apartments and now that they’re passé, builders have to put more thought (and money) into keeping noises from escaping. This costs money. Sealing off apartments so that air is contained also helps with odour control. Unfortunately it’s hard to know how good a job builders have done until moving in.

Generous common / amenity space:
Amenity spaces help create a community inside a building by providing areas where people can meet and interact.

  • Lobbies that promote interaction
  • A play area for children
  • Day care facilities
  • Fitness centre / Yoga studio / Library / meeting room
  • Swimming pool / sauna
  • Storage
  • Ample parking for deliveries
  • Lockers where delivery people can leave packages for residents.
  • Large item storage lockers.
  • Secure / gated access
  • Pet friendly with accommodation for dog toilet needs to ease the burden on local parks.
  • Outdoor common space with wifi.
Click to enlarge. From https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2017/pg/bgrd/backgroundfile-103920.pdf

Parking:
Secure, covered and adequate vehicle / bicycle parking is a big deal. Parking is expensive for developers as the only way to provide it to dig. The more parking the more digging. Developers like to skimp on parking claiming there is less demand for it.  Weston is a long way from being a car-free community. Unlike downtown Toronto, we can’t walk and cycle everywhere for our needs. We don’t even have any decent bike lanes inn Weston. There should be one parking space per apartment otherwise the parking problem just spills out into the neighbourhood. Parking spaces can always be adapted for other uses once transit becomes adequate and the neighbourhood provides a better variety of retail and cultural experiences. Charging stations for e-vehicles should be provided.

Security.
Security costs money and having someone monitor residents and visitors is expensive but necessary for peace of mind.

Energy efficiency:
The cost of energy is likely to rise in the future. Keeping costs down is important along with eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Electrically powered heat pumps are one of the best and most energy-efficient ways to heat and cool an apartment. More costly to install, they keep resident’s fuel expenses low and use less energy.  A 4-pipe heat pump system can respond quickly to daily and seasonal changes and will allow heating and cooling simultaneously in the various parts of the building (some buildings can have only air-conditioning or heating at any one time and the switch-over date is a contentious one).

Bottom line:
We can build bare-bones and quick profit dwellings that don’t adapt well to future needs or we can build communities where people can thrive.

It’s up to us and city planners to hold developers to account so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Toronto has written a set of draft urban design guidelines that considers the needs of children and families growing up in an apartment community. They are well worth a read.

Another important development meeting.

This land will be developed at the corner of Weston and Lawrence. The old Scotiabank ‘wedge is on the corner and the church property extends to their parking lot currently used by UP Express commuters on weekdays. Adapted from Google Maps.

It has been a well-known ‘secret’ for some years that development is coming to the Scotiabank wedge site along with the Weston Park Baptist Church land at Weston and Lawrence. Rumours have abounded for years regarding this mega-site, painting all kinds of scenarios incorporating housing, a community / recreation centre as well as a replacement church. A new home for Frontlines was also mentioned in the rumours.

A ‘preliminary discussion’ meeting has been set up by Councillor Nunziata with the idea of ‘gathering input and ideas’.

WPBC entered into a joint venture with developer, Castlepoint Numa in June last year and according to their website the church was expecting to be shown proposals for the entire site by last fall. Based on that information,  I imagine that the ‘input and ideas’ stage has passed – but I then tend to be cynical.

Castlepoint Numa seems to be well regarded however, it was in the news a few years ago after one of their developments in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood failed, disappointing about 150 people who had paid deposits. The building would have been a ten-storey condo. According to the Star, one of the people left high and dry was none other than a son of Mayor Tory. Although the deposits were refunded, buyers were left several years behind in the ever rising tide of Toronto home prices.

Castlepoint Numa’s failed project in the Junction area of Toronto. From lowerjct.com

The explanation given for cancelling the project was Castlepoint Numa’s inability to obtain financing thanks (they claimed) to the city’s slow approval process. Read more here and here. There is evidence that Castlepoint Numa may have done this more than once.

This will be another important community meeting that will help guide the development of our ‘downtown’. We all know that development is inevitable and probably a good thing if it results in a building that works to enhance Weston rather than detract from it (as so many have done in the recent past).

Date: Monday February 24
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: Weston Park Baptist Church; 1871 Weston Road.

Where are our police?

Drivers have seen it for years; the steady decline in courtesy and good driving on our roads. Pedestrians and cyclists have noticed it too – yes, sometimes from our fellow pedestrians and cyclists. We’re at the stage now where drivers routinely blow through stale yellow and even red lights. People who think their time is more important than everyone else’s safety weave in and out, cutting people off and travelling at dangerous speeds. Many vehicle plates are covered with dark plastic to avoid detection and window glass is tinted far beyond legal limits. Police officers on our streets are a rare sight – unless on paid duty at a construction or road work site. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage going on there.

Despite the wild west type driving experiences of recent years and the increasing number of deaths and injuries on our roads, there has been a steep decline in the number of traffic violations in our city. Police issued 140,000 fewer tickets in 2019 than they did in 2009. Careless driving charges dropped by 44%.

Are the police focussing their efforts elsewhere? It doesn’t look like it. The City’s homicide rate rose from 2.1 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 3.1 in 2018. Our murder rate was higher in 2018 than that of New York City.

So what’s going on? We have 5400 uniform and non-uniform police officers in Toronto – where are they all? How do they spend their time? If they’re not on the roads, where else could they be? Since tickets are down, they can’t all be in court or doing paperwork. They also respond to fewer types of complaints. Noise issues for example now go to a city by-law department.

Is it a morale problem? Are police having a giant snit because their numbers are down? Why is Mayor Tory not doing something? The failure of Vision Zero was not properly addressed and a name change to Vision Zero 2.0 was seen as the answer. What about Chief Saunders? The whole point of a police force is to protect lives and property by enforcing the law. Effective policing acts as a deterrent to further criminal behaviour. Visibility is part of that deterrence aspect.

In the U.K. beefed up road policing is seen to be effective in combatting other crimes. After all, criminals use the roads and they’re often driving badly. More enforcement on our roads would uncover more criminal behaviour.

In the meantime, we need answers from Mayor Tory and Chief Saunders. The solution belongs with them but neither one seem to be owning the problem.

WVRA’s Dave Bennett interviewed

WVRA Chair Dave Bennett is interviewed in this 18-minute video by local realtor Louisa Bada and talks about the work that goes on at the Weston Village Residents Association.

A few points of note in the video:

The developer of the subsidized rental retirement building proposed for 2346 Weston Road has resubmitted a new design. Bennett says the senior building was to be a ‘mish mash’ of one, two and three bedroom apartments with only one elevator. Now it will have only one and two bedroom apartments along with two elevators and a, ‘floor for guests’ where people can stay overnight. (I looked for the guest floor in the city report but it only mentions 188 square metres (2023 square feet of community space)). There will be a walking path on the top of the building. According to Bennett, it will be a place where, ‘I would put my mother’. I’m not sure if Bennett is claiming credit for the changes.

Bennett, says the City’s 28-page report on the 1956 Weston Road (Greenland Farms) development is a, ‘daunting document’ but the WVRA will put a link to it on their site with their own highlighted notes. Weston Web covered the contents of the report on January 4th -for our summary click here.

Comment: It’s great to see the WRVA opening up about what they do. I’m sure they mean well and do a lot of good in the community but if they are to truly represent all the residents of Weston, their meetings and decisions should be public and transparent. This will avoid the perception that the association is being used by Councillor Nunziata to legitimize questionable developments to the detriment of the public interest. Daylight is a good disinfectant.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for the WVRA:

  • Residents should be able to join online.
  • The Constitution, by-laws and meeting minutes should be online.
  • Meetings should be publicized and open to any member of the public – especially those where developers and other lobbyists are present.

Here’s the video.

WVRA in closed talks with Little Avenue developer.

From Citywatch L.A.

For some reason, the Weston Village Residents’ Association will be holding private talks with Weston Asset Management, the developer of the mammoth project at Weston Road and Little Avenue. Both the community, and city planners have been highly critical of the project but now the developer and Councillor Nunziata seem to want the stamp of approval (or approved alterations) from the WVRA. This is much what happened with the Weston Hub. The nod from the WVRA was seen as adding legitimacy to the project and cut the legs off opposition along with a push for improvements to the public realm.

I asked to be present at the meeting but a couple of roadblocks were thrown my way. Firstly, membership of the WVRA is open to Weston residents only. Fair enough, I don’t live in Weston Village (I live 100 metres away). Secondly, only the ‘Steering Committee‘ will meet with the developer so Weston residents will not be able to attend even if they decide to join the association.

That smells.

The WVRA represents a few dozen people at best. It is not a democratically elected body and should not set itself up as a self-appointed architectural arbiter behind closed doors. There was a public meeting where the developer heard from residents. Was that not clear enough? Perhaps it was too clear.

Chair Dave Bennett insists that the WVRA isn’t holding a secret meeting but if it’s unannounced and held behind closed doors by a select few, it’s quacking like a duck, it’s secret, and it’s wrong.