No; look over here.

There’s a couple of news items that have surfaced lately. One is a notorious chair throwing incident and another is a Metrolinx promise to a community.

Which is garnering the most attention?

Which is of greater consequence?

In February 2019, aspiring media celebrity Marcella Zoia, a teenager at the time, threw a folding chair from a downtown high rise. For some reason, the video of the incident was posted to social media and all hell broke loose. The press has given huge amounts of attention to the feckless Ms. Zoia’s case, hounding her during several court appearances where she eventually coughed up a guilty plea. After her sentencing (a hefty fine and community service), hanging judge John Tory has chimed in to  to say that Ms. Zoia (AKA Chair Girl) should have gone to jail. Apparently the mayor believes that without the deterrence of a jail term, others will be inspired to fling furniture from tall buildings – where will it all end? Mayor Tory had no hesitation in criticizing the work of Justice Mara Greene who wisely ignored the Crown’s recommendation of a 6-month jail term. Let’s not get into the purposes of jail but suffice to say that it should be reserved for violent offenders rather than idiotic teens. This isn’t Georgia or Alabama.

Let’s take a moment to be grateful that the mayor is in a position where he is relatively inconsequential and move on to another news item.

In this story, Councillor Anthony Peruzza is complaining that Metrolinx is breaking a promise to donate a chunk of land in the Finch Avenue West and Yorkgate Boulevard area for the purpose of building a community hub. Here, you’ll not find hordes of reporters breathlessly pursuing Metrolinx executives for an answer. Lazy members of the press and Mayor Tory find items like this tedious. There are no dramatic foot chases no videos and no public outrage. Metrolinx spokesperson Anne-Marie Aikins says that Metrolinx cannot donate land to the City but indicated that there’s lots of time. to work something out. Translation: there’s time for the public to lose interest and for the story to be buried.

Sadly, that sums up the news cycle these days. Councillor Peruzza represents one of the poorest wards in the city and instead of government agencies joining forces to build up an impoverished community, they conspire to work against it. The press largely doesn’t care.

This is reminiscent of the Toronto Parking Authority sale of the 16 John Street parking lot in Weston, a piece of land that once belonged to the old town of Weston (in another one of the poorest wards in the city) and which could have formed the heart of a stand-alone Weston Hub. It wasn’t to be. People were seduced by the promise of a glitzy new home for the Weston Farmers Market along with community space and live/work artist accommodations. Council was swayed by the next-to-zero cost and the only downside was to be a 30-storey tower and podium, something not envisioned by Toronto’s 2011 feasibility study.

The original spacious home of the Weston Farmers Market. (From Google Earth)
The intended home of the Weston Farmers Market. File.

When the Weston Farmers Market opens a week on Saturday (August 1), it won’t be convening in the space that was a big part of the selling job.

One of the concept drawings of the farmers market.

Apparently traders don’t want to use it because it’s too small and their trucks (which they need close by) would damage the paving.

The new home of the Weston Farmers Market (Google Earth).

No, the market’s going back to almost the exact location where it began on John Street. The ample parking promised for the farmers market turns out to be the new market space itself. The space is larger than the fancy concept one and the paving can withstand trucks. If instead of selling the parking lot, the Toronto Parking Authority (a branch of city council) had donated the land to the community, things could have turned out differently. Sadly the press was focussed on other things and the public was seduced by fancy drawings. That’s the nature of news these days.

Maybe we can invite Marcella Zoia to cut the ribbon on August 1st.

Weston Park Development site opens

The Development lands at the corner of Weston and Lawrence – adapted from Google Maps.

The south-east corner of Weston and Lawrence will be the home of an interesting project. For the first time in a long time, there’s a proposed development that promises to bring a net benefit to Weston rather than a neutral or a negative. The proposed site includes the Weston Park Baptist Church, its parking lots and the old wedge-shaped Scotiabank building. The organizations behind the scheme are developers Castlepoint Numa and the Weston Park Baptist Church.

Many people who attended the first consultation meeting back in the pre-Covid days of last February 28 were encouraged by development plans for the site and the enthusiasm of the stakeholders.

The development group has opened a website to encourage suggestions and feedback from the community.

Find the community information and feedback site here.

Locust St development to be considered at community council

A huge proposed development on a small residential street will be considered at Etobicoke York Community Council next week.

Developers are proposing a 35-storey tower with 374 units and parking for 154 cars. The proposal violates planning guidelines and some city bylaws about height, density, size, setbacks, waste handling, and parking (the developers kindly provided council with a draft bylaw amendment).

Tall tower

By my calculation, this will be the tallest building in Mount Dennis.

I think it’s in a terrible location at the end of a narrow street, and will provide little to the community. The Etobicoke York Community Council will meet July 14 to discuss the building.

Notting Hill condo development coming to Eglinton.

Plant World in May last year. From google.com

Remember Plant World, that sprawling 2-hectare garden centre on Eglinton with rather high prices but some spectacular and unusual horticultural specimens? It was operated in various guises by the Delworth-Reeves family from 1889 when, “Cornelius Delworth purchased a parcel of land on Richview Side Road (now Eglinton Avenue) in the outlying farming community of Weston, as an expansion of his downtown nursery operation.”.

Many green-fingered folk were dealt a crushing blow when the last customers were ushered out last September having been sold several years earlier. Yes, you could say their lives were uprooted.

The site from the air (marked in yellow). From google.com. Click to enlarge.

The large site was a tempting one for developers and the owners were probably made an offer too good to resist. In December 2015, purchasers Lanterra Developments submitted a site proposal for 5 condo towers on the site ranging in height from 18 – 33 stories with 1900 apartments and townhomes. The project was grandly named ‘Notting Hill Condominiums’ but don’t expect to see Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts anytime soon.

Lanterra’s 2015 proposal went over like the proverbial lead balloon with the Planning Department and people attending the community consultation in May 2016. Issues such as, density, school capacity, shadow and traffic concerns and compatibility with the neighbourhood (despite already being dotted with 16-20 storey apartment towers) were some of the objections raised. The developer was told by Etobicoke York Community Council to tone it down, sharpen their erasers and try again.

Later in 2016, Lanterra invoked the Ontario Municipal Board’s appeals process (an appointed body that prior to having its wings clipped by Premier Wynne was accused of rubber-stamping developers’ excesses). The developer wanted an OMB intervention claiming that Council was dragging its feet.

Instead of bringing judgement from on high and picking a winner, the newly relevantOMB mediated an agreementreleased in 2018 between all parties and the result was lower overall podium and tower heights, no townhomes, revised setbacks, lower density and a reduction to 1360 apartments. In addition, 25% of the apartments were mandated to be 2 or 3 bedrooms; the developer was to pay $3.8 million in (Section 37) community benefits including up to $800,000 in public art (oh dear lord).

 

According to Urban Toronto, the latest plan submitted in June has the number of dwellings at 1275 but Lanterra’s website says 1320. The OMB has reserved the right to step in again if needed but so far everyone seems happy. Ontario Liberals might call it a Wynne Win.

Artist impression looking south-west towards Eglinton Avenue West. From Lanterradevelopments.com

The mediated agreement was approved by Toronto City Council in 2018.

More details from Urban Torontohere.

View the condo sales pitch here.

Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.