The Pedestrian Safety and Cyclist Committee has released its report, and it’s amazing, thorough, enlightened, and balanced. The 31 recommendations would reinvent cycling and walking in Weston and Mount Dennis and would, at last, connect our riding to the rest of the city.
The biggest proposed changes are long bicycle lanes along Weston, Jane, and Black Creek Drive. Currently, there is no safe, direct route from Weston and Mount Dennis to the Junction area of Toronto or the York Rec Centre. These new paths would fix that—and make cycle commuting much more attractive. The report says that the PSCC was “surprised” to see that Weston and Jane had been left out of the city’s 10-year plan, and asked for that to be reconsidered. Jane, in particular, has “the potential of being a north – south artery for cycling.”
The PSCC also recommended that the city install bike lanes to connect the new Mount Dennis station to existing bike lanes on Eglinton, which, bizarrely, do not quite reach the station. The Weston Station, too, needs a connection for bicycles, they said.
The report wasn’t all about bikes, though; it also asked the city to conduct Road Safety Audits to improve pedestrian safety at the following locations in Weston and Mount Dennis:
Weston Road and Oak Street
Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue West
Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West
The authors said, “We need to be proactive—not reactive—in conducting safety audits of locations identified by the community as unsafe”.
They would also like the city to “reduce the speed limit on all local streets in Ward 11 immediately surrounding a school to 30 km/hr and create “School Safety Zones” around all schools in Ward 11. Making the bridges and tunnels in Weston better for pedestrians is also a priority, and the city should look into installing physical barriers, such as decorative railings, along the . Lawrence Avenue Bridge over the Humber, and the Weston Road underpass, which crosses under the UPX tracks near the Superstore.
The proposed building at 1705 Weston Road is scheduled for opening in 2022 and as previously reported by Adam will be a 25-storey high-rise that will include a 6-storey podium. It will be a rental building. A total of 240 units will comprise 37 bachelor units, 98 one-bedroom units, 77 two-bedroom units and 28 three-bedroom units. About 1600 square feet of ground-floor retail space will front onto Weston Road as part of the development. A 3 1/2-level underground parking garage will hold 136 parking spots while above ground, 6 parking spaces will serve visitors and shoppers. 245 spaces for bicycles will be divided into 24 long and 216 short term spots with the remaining 5 for retail. With 104 apartments going without parking spaces; this would seem to be courting disaster but planners claim that nowadays, fewer people own a car. Unlike downtown, amenities at Number 1705 are not exactly to hand. The closest supermarket (the Real Canadian Superstore) is about 3 km away; 11 minutes by bus, a long walk or a very dangerous bike ride.
Here’s a view in purple of the actual site that was assembled by Stonehenge. It’s just under an acre and adjacent to the southernmost of the GO / UP Express parking lots so it will be handy for commuters who take either option; especially the GO. Four TTC bus routes are close by.
As with all such proposals, at least one community consultation will be arranged by Councillor Nunziata.
As can be seen in the land use designation map, the corridor along Weston Road is designated as an apartment neighbourhood. It remains to be seen what the community reaction to the development will be but the City is very keen to focus on intensification, especially around transit hubs. One question of concern might be that the building is a rental rather than a condo. The building may therefore inject more low-income residents into an area that can’t meet its obligations to the people already here. Also, because of the low rent expectations, the build quality may be proportionally lower than say a rental building in mid-town. This is where Councillor Nunziata will have to be vigilant if she is to improve the fabric of our community.
There is a wealth of supporting information on the project, from shadow studies to architectural plans available here.
This site is a compelling case for the future of transit oriented development. There is a crucial need for affordable rental housing and easy access commuting done the smart way. – Old Stonehenge site.
Incidentally, the company behind the proposed development at 1705 Weston Road is called Old Stonehenge. Company founder Michael Dobrijevic has produced several building projects and has been praised for their quality. According to the site, Mr Dobrijevic takes his inspiration from Stonehenge; interestingly, his site shows an image of Callanish Standing Stones (aka Scotland’s Stonehenge) on the Isle of Lewis more than 1000 km north of Stonehenge.
One more thing that should be of concern to all Weston residents…
“It is noted that none of the ideas and directions arising from the Weston 2021 Design Charrette have been brought forward in the form of amendments to the Official Plan, the Zoning By-law or urban design guidelines.” Bousfield’s Planning Document
Toronto Council consists of 44 councillors and one mayor, each of whom has a single vote when making decisions. There is a huge staff at City Hall which gathers information and makes recommendations to council on topics to be discussed. Smaller committees of councillors, generally appointed by the Mayor, study the issues, receive input from staff and the public and then make a recommendation which is forwarded to a general council meeting. Unfortunately many councillors have varying axes to grind; sadly for the people, the biggest priority of many councillors is getting re-elected every four years. As a result, fact-based decisions often happen by accident rather than by design. For example, the unnecessary Scarborough Subway, panned by experts both here and around the world, will be a costly blunder that Mayor Tory and many suburban councillors (including our own) fully support.
We need to make plans and act on them with support from the city and in conformity with the Toronto Official Plan.
Weston is still only in Phase 1 of its Heritage Conservation District status granted in 2004. Phase 2 was to be studied that same year. ‘Study’, in the language of Toronto politics means delay, in the hope that the issue will go away quietly (which it did). Apparently getting to phase 2 requires time, money and a huge volunteer effort. Rich areas have no problem raising money and help but a district like Weston / Mount Dennis naturally struggles.
There was an official set of plans drawn up around 2005 for some of the more historic Toronto communities. In Weston, developers were supposed to keep future building heights to around 8 stories in our area out of consideration of the historical context and the river’s proximity. Outside of special areas, the Tall Building Design Guidelines should apply but often don’t.
In 2009, plans for rehabilitating the Kodak lands were discussed. Former Toronto Chief Planner Paul Bedford held a planning exercise with his University of Toronto students to explore Weston’s potential and reported on his findings in 2010. That led to a Weston planning ‘charrette‘ back in 2011. The Mount Dennis Mobility Hub Study in 2012 was another planning session.
Some of the ideas that came out of these planning sessions were excellent but somehow the execution has been lacking; for example:
create a pedestrian walkway along South Station Street that would connect Weston Village with the GO / UPX station.
create generous and clearly defined pedestrian and cycling routes to the station
create more accessible access points to the parks along the Humber
Fix the uninviting streetscape along Weston Road
BTW, the Charrette didn’t get everything right. One of their key messages was that “Public investment will need to be provided by the private sector.”
It seems that many development deals are worked out in the back rooms before they reach the public. Public commentary then serves to make only minor adjustments. When the 30-storey Weston Hub was in the public commentary stage, people were told that the height was non-negotiable.
in 2016, more planning studies for Weston and Mount Dennis were announced that should have seen the light of day in 2017 but nothing seems to have transpired.
Weston and Mount Dennis are not less worthy of support than more affluent areas of the city but that’s not what happens. The Artscape project at Wychwood Barns received millions in funding from three levels of government. Our own Artscape development at the soon to be opened Weston Hub received a much smaller investment.
As mentioned previously, Europe has car free zones, attractive streetscapes and limits on building height. Our planning in Toronto seems to be centred around strictly regulating development and then accepting relatively small amounts of money to break the rules.
Finally, we have a mayor and his team who deliberately keep city coffers empty because they cannot see beyond keeping taxes at or below inflation. The mayor worries about millionaire homeowners becoming homeless because of property tax hikes:
“a lot of older and younger people counting on us to be disciplined will be forced from their homes, or find it unaffordable to live in the city, if we start taking 5-per-cent-a-year” tax hikes. – Toronto Star December 27, 2017
He’s conveniently ignoring the fact that older and disabled residents can apply for property tax relief. But that’s our current political environment. Facts mean nothing, there’s no money for the public good and it’s all about protecting the rich.
Weston may once have been the home of the bicycle, but the bike has long since moved downtown and bought a condo.
Slowly, ever-so-slowly, that is beginning to change. City staff are making the streets a bit friendlier to our two-wheeled friends. In January, they’ll ask Etobicoke York Community Council to remove a daft ban on bikes turning at Little Avenue during rush hours.
At present, no traffic is allowed to turn onto Little from Weston from 7-9 am and 4-6 pm, and the law is strictly enforced (as it should be). This includes bicycles. If the new rules are approved, bikes will be allowed to turn onto Little Avenue.
To be sure, this is a small step, but it’s in the right direction.
As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back in Weston / Mount Dennis. This is a five part series, the first of which begins today.
As always, your comments are welcome.
1. Our Road System
Pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Toronto are not taken seriously enough and by extension here in Weston / Mount Dennis. Last year in Toronto, 43 pedestrians were killed by people driving cars while 40 of us were killed by people with a gun. Locally, compare the reaction to the man killed in the Shoppers Parking lot last month with the response to the woman killed on Monday 285 metres west of Weston and Eglinton; a particularly dangerous intersection because of its diagonal angle. Traffic engineers deplore diagonal intersections because they are more prone to driver error, yet Weston Road slices diagonally through Ward 11 at several major points without modification.
Weston and Lawrence was the 7th worst Toronto intersection for collisions between 2009 and 2013. Diaginal intersections can be straightened by traffic engineers, often without much disruption.
Pedestrian light timing is too short – especially at the busy transit hub at Weston and Lawrence. There is a seniors’ building at the intersection yet priority is given to traffic rather than pedestrians. In addition, as already mentioned, intersections that are not at right angles are inherently dangerous.
We need red light cameras to stop people from endangering lives in their haste to shave a few minutes from their journey. Red light cameras more than pay for themselves through the fines that they collect. Is it too much to ask for cameras that can make such a difference at dangerous intersections? Although there are 77 red light cameras in Toronto, there is only one in our area, oddly at Jane and Bala / Emmet.
Cycle lanes – according to Councillor Nunziata, her Cycling Committee has met and will be releasing a report soon. Kudos to the councillor for this initiative and let’s hope for some good recommendations. Apart from dangerous sharrows, there is precious little resembling cycling infrastructure in our area. Paint isn’t infrastructure.
Tomorrow: The retail experience in Weston / Mount Dennis.
Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.
He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.
After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.
MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.
All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.