Developer meeting report.

Apologies for the delay in writing this up.

There was a fair crowd at WCI on November 28 to hear the developer’s latest incarnation of a ‘Main Street Weston’ development site of 7 contiguous lots at Lawrence and Little that will set the tone for years to come. Frances Nunziata began proceedings by stating that the developer had been asked to purchase additional properties in order to justify the scale of development, hence the latest application which doubled the podium height and the number of 29-storey buildings.

The audience listened respectfully as City planner Rory McNeill began the proceedings stating that the city’s representatives were there to listen to people’s reactions and that nothing has been decided.

The reason for the meeting is that the developer has applied to be exempt from the permitted standards required for developers in Weston.

Weston is officially on an ‘Avenue’ which means that it is subject to certain styles of building. The Urban Design Guidelines for Weston (yes they still exist) call it a mixed use area which includes retail and residential uses. Weston Road building heights under the guideline are not to exceed 8 storeys with a street frontage of 3 storeys. The western portion of the site is a heritage area and that means visual impacts should be limited. Any new buildings should be ‘designed sensitively within the urban design context’

From the Weston planning guidelines. Click to enlarge.

The residential units will be market price condos. The lawyer for the developer was coy about what price they will go for saying it was too far into the future. He did say that he expected that the development will help gentrify Weston.

Audience comments:
  • The development is too large and out of scale for the area.
  • Appropriate development in Weston is not a bad thing.
  • Most tall buildings sit atop a podium that is set back from the street. This one cheats because instead of tapering, the towers spill out on a base that hangs over the podium.
  • There were mixed feelings as to the attractiveness of the development.
  • The proposed number of parking spaces is inadequate.
  • There will be greatly increased traffic issues for Little Avenue and Lawrence Avenue.

A few other random thoughts:

Toronto requires shadow studies (yes, I’m obsessed) on proposed buildings to figure out the shade they will cast on the surrounding area. The City only requires these studies for the ‘Summer’ months i.e. March 22nd , June 22nd and September 22nd. Incidentally, March 22nd and September 22nd are identical from a sunshine point of view. If green space is affected, the City requires readings for December 22nd (the date of the Winter Solstice when sunlight is at its lowest and solar noon shadows are longest). It should be noted that the shadows cast by tall buildings are at their longest between September and March. These are not pencil shaped buildings and even the podium is 12 storeys. In fact they are rather ‘slabby’ and their shadows will be considerable.

The parking lot that currently sits beside the old Greenland Farms and the current pedestrian and vehicular access from there to Lawrence Avenue will be closed by this development.

I was impressed by the people of Weston who attended – they listened politely with open minds as they gathered information about the development.

The developer through their lawyer says that a smaller version of this development will not be economically viable and keeping to the Weston Planning Guidelines is out of the question. If this developer can’t build within the guidelines, perhaps another one can.

This building will create additional traffic issues for people on Little Avenue which currently has restricted access from Weston Road.

The developer was told by the city (and / or councillor?) that purchasing adjacent properties would justify a larger scale development. Now that properties have been added, is there an obligation on the part of the City to grant the exemptions needed? If so, that is irresponsible.

The number of parking spaces is inadequate even by the most bicycle and pedestrian-minded among us. Weston is not downtown. Sadly, a car is needed to have a reasonable quality of life here and I invite anyone who thinks otherwise to tell us how they do it. The average Toronto household contains 2.63 people. The 592 residential units would likely be home to 1500+ people. The developer’s proposed 174 parking spaces for residents, seven (!) for visitors and zero spaces (!!) for retail is as the Brits would say, ‘taking the piss’ and is a transparent attempt to maximize profits at the community’s expense.

View the slides from the presentation here.

The person behind this development is Catherine Bertucci. There’s not much web evidence of her activity but she’s not popular with the Casa Loma Residents Association where a few years ago, she and a partner bought up Maclean House, a heritage building and according to the association,

“The property had been purchased by Catherine Bertucci and John Malcolm Todd via a numbered company and all they proceeded to obtain vacant possession by arranging for all tenants to vacate the premises.  Prior to obtaining any demolition or building permits the developers were advised of the heritage interest by the Community and City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Services.  While the legal process was underway to determine whether the City would official designate the property as architecturally significant, the developer proceeded to begin demolition of the property including the reckless destruction of many of the significant architectural details of John Lyle’s Maclean House – details that have stood untouched for 100 years.”

It’s still not clear if the developer intends to preserve the heritage buildings near Little Avenue or just the facades.

In conclusion, the developer wants to:

  • build and sell buildings nearly seven times taller than allowable,
  • not provide the required setbacks from the street
  • provide only 33% of the required parking for residents
  • provide no parking for retail stores (instead of 127 required)
  • provide only 40% of the required amenity space per unit

Every high rise along Weston Road began life as a beautiful concept drawing, sold to the community as a future architectural gem and a much needed improvement on the status quo. This one is no different.

There is no doubt that Weston needs development. It just doesn’t need this one.

Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you regarding this development:

by email: [email protected]
by Phone: (416) 394-5683
by letter: City, Planner, Etobicoke York District, 2, Civic Centre Court, Floor 3, Toronto ON, M9C 5A3.

Shhh…Community Consultation Meeting November 28 at WCI

Developer, Weston Asset Management Inc. wants to fundamentally change the nature of Weston’s ‘Main Street’ by erecting two 29-storey condos surrounded by a 12-storey podium. On its own the podium would be called a high rise in most parts of the world – or for that matter more genteel (and better represented) parts of Toronto. The site consists of the old Greenland Farms property and several adjacent others. Residents will use Lawrence and Little Avenues to access the complex.

Nearly two years ago, Weston Asset Management purchased a block of properties comprising numbers 1956, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1980, 1986 Weston Road and the adjacent property on 1 Little Avenue. The biggest of the properties is the old Greenland Farms supermarket that was once home to Loblaws.

The properties as they currently stand. Click to enlarge. Image from Google Maps.
Part of the developer’s plan of the project (Weston Road is at the bottom). Click to enlarge.
The developer’s concept drawing of the finished product. Note the size of the storefronts at the base of the structure. Click to enlarge.

Up until recently, this development would have been in direct contravention of the Official Plan for Weston (not that it ever made any difference) which restricted building heights along Weston Road. Not to worry, Toronto’s Official Plan has been updated to remove all references to Weston and pesky Weston Road building heights. Job done!

Ground floor retail space proposed by the developer. No room for a supermarket. Click to enlarge.

For people hoping that a supermarket would return, there is bad news. The average supermarket occupies about 30,000 – 50,000 square feet. Despite the project’s size (there will be about 43,000 square feet of retail, there is no single retail space bigger than 4,300 square feet on the ground floor. Just over 31,000 square feet of retail is planned for the entire second floor but  supermarkets are traditionally built at ground level.

Toronto requires developers to perform shadow studies as sunlight is a fast disappearing commodity thanks to high rise buildings. The opposite side of Weston Road will predominantly be in shadow as a result of the new development. For some reason, the developer hasn’t included shadows during the six months between September and March (when sunshine is most welcome and needed). Incidentally shadows on March 21 and September 21 are identical so why include both?

There’s news for heritage lovers. While the developer has made plans to keep only the facades of 1974 (Squibbs)-1976 (tax preparer) and 1982 -1984 (Humber Condominiums) -1986 (God Bless Canada Coffee), the two other buildings and the hairdressers at 1 Little Avenue will be demolished entirely.

Artist’s impression of part of the proposed retail strip showing the two heritage facades that will be preserved. Click to enlarge.

Curiously for such an important change to our ‘downtown’, there is no mention of this community consultation on Councillor Nunziata’s newsletter or website. Legally, only residents within 120 metres need to be notified but this is a development that will affect residents far beyond those limits and will influence neighbouring development for decades to come.

One can only assume that the councillor would like this event to be poorly attended and that the developer has been told it’s a done deal. Then again, she may be trying to protect the community from an even bigger impact. After the last meeting, held in August 2017 to gather community input, Weston Asset Management felt encouraged enough to double the size of the project. Sad but true.

This extract from a letter to Planning by the developer’s solicitors may provide a clue to the opposition anticipated and the meeting format best able to deal with it..

“In terms of the parties involved, we would suggest that in addition to the typical notice required under the Planning Act, the additional stakeholders who should be invited to the public consultation meeting should include any known residents’ associations in the immediate area as well as representatives of the local BIA. The form of the meeting which we have found most beneficial to the public gaining a full understanding of the proposal, in addition to allowing City Staff to best assess the veracity of the concerns (my bold and underline), is the type of open house where the various city and applicant consultants can review the various areas of interest with individuals and/or groups in a smaller setting. The current notification requirements, which include both the posting of a notice onsite, as well as the typical mail-out to surrounding property owns(sic) and the specific organizations indicated above, is the best manner in which to reach the public.”

That sounds a bit like like divide and conquer.

Read more about the project here. The developer’s application materials can be found here.

If you cannot attend the meeting, and would like to provide input, Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you:

by email: [email protected]
by Phone: (416) 394-5683
by letter: City, Planner, Etobicoke York District, 2, Civic Centre Court, Floor 3, Toronto ON, M9C 5A3.

Planning Application Consultation:
Date: November 28, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Weston Collegiate Institute; 100 Pine Street.

Nunziata’s response to gun violence

Frances Nunziata spoke to Newstalk 1010 about the recent spike in violence in Weston and Mount Dennis. She blames street gangs and gang-affiliated bars:

Nunziata says street gangs are a problem in the neighbourhoods she’s responsible for and so are the bars they hang out in.

She’d like authorities to do more to clamp down on bars that attract and allow illegal activity and the people involved.

Nunziata has long loathed after-hours bars in Weston and has fought against them for more than a decade.

Election post-mortem thoughts.

From: National Post.

Now the election is over, Doug Ford is about to be released back into the broad daylight of Ontario politics. Apparently if he sees his shadow it means another 6 months of cuts.

Ford’s enforced absence during the campaign proved that federal Conservatives are embarrassed by his brainless, dogma-driven actions along with slash and burn service cuts for lower and middle income earners. He and federal leader Andrew Scheer are no doubt blaming each other for the Liberals’ lucky escape. The political long knives are out for both of them. Patrick Brown will be chomping some popcorn from his Brampton mayor’s chair.

The Ford Name also failed to work the charm in nearby Etobicoke North where Rob Ford’s widow Renata was running as a first-time candidate. Despite her less than dynamic presence under the People’s Party banner, her Ford name was enough to give Maxime Bernier a seat at the English debate because she was considered a genuine contender. She finished in the also-ran category with 2.8% of the vote but has promised to return under the same banner.

The Conservatives in York South-Weston need to run local candidates who don’t disappear after each election.

It turned out that there was a Big Red Wave after all but only in Ontario. Ahmed Hussen has been given a fresh mandate to continue his aloof ways. The sight of Frances Nunziata campaigning alongside him was additional evidence that he’s far too good for York South-Weston and we definitely should be grateful to have him.

The NDP need to intensify their focus on working families struggling to make ends meet rather than by tangling themselves up in layers of dogma and political correctness. A lot more people care about minimum wage than how many genders there are. They also need to tackle the motivations of 43% of the York South-Weston electorate who declined the opportunity to vote.

All election signs must be removed by 9:30pm Thursday.

Goodbye Farmers Market. Time to act Ms Nunziata.

Weston Farmers Market at the old location in 2004.

Here at Weston Web it often seems as if we’re voices in the wilderness. When the Weston Hub was proposed it was extravagantly sold to the people of Weston as an indoor-outdoor community gathering space that would host a year round market.

Nunziata reported she and York South-Weston MPP Laura Albanese recently gained a financial contribution from Metrolinx to create an indoor farmers’ market to complement the existing, popular outdoor market in a parking lot, making the farmers’ market a year-round draw.” From toronto.com Feb 15, 2012.

Councillor Nunziata has contacted WestonWeb to say that the John Street parking lot is being developed to accommodate a year-round farmers’ market, cultural hub and affordable condo living / workspace for artists. She goes on to say that nothing is being done behind closed doors. Perhaps she can shed some light on this topic (at a community meeting) on March 14th“. From Weston Web March 9, 2012

The Weston Farmers Market is a creature of the Weston Village Business Improvement Association. Once plans for the Weston Hub were revealed, it was clear that there would be no year round market and the space allocated for the WFM was miserly. In effect, the Market was used as part of a bait and switch scheme. The Weston Residents Association launched a full court press in support of the scheme and opponents to the development were regarded as progress-hating pariahs. Now it seems as if the forebodings were real and that residents were sold a bill of goods.

It was also clear that the farmers market on which Ms Nunziata based her plans was the one at Wychwood Barns; also held on Saturdays. It is basically a boutique market. No doubt there is a demand for rainbow catchers, sheep yogurt and hemp smoothies in Weston but we’re a working / middle class neighbourhood that has (thanks to the departure of Greenland Farms) just become a bit of a food desert. This is not the time to be alienating legitimate produce sellers who were fighting  to improve the cramped and inaccessible Weston Hub space opening next season.

Market vendors have known for years that the new space in the Hub was inadequate. They were told to adapt or look elsewhere. Truckloads of fresh produce would have to be parked on side streets and delivered by hand to the new mini stalls.

Joe Gaeta had been with the WFM for 39 years. He was one of the few market vendors who genuinely grows his own produce, spring bedding and decorative plants. Joe is someone who speaks his mind and he made it known that the Weston Hub space was inadequate, poorly designed and inconvenient. He no doubt spoke truth to power once too often and was asked to leave with only a day’s notice.

Joe Gaeta at the Weston Farmers Market in May 2019.

Ms Nunziata has been busy this week campaigning for Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen. Incidentally other candidates running are Jasveen Rattaan (Conservative), Yafet Tewelde (NDP), Nicki Ward (Green), Gerard Racine (PPC).

Perhaps our Councillor can remove herself from the hustings long enough to fix this mess that threatens to destroy one of the few bright spots in our community.

From Facebook.

Nothing happens in the Weston BIA (or indeed Weston) without the express approval of Frances Nunziata (and that includes Joe Gaeta’s expulsion). She must fix this by apologizing to Joe and offering to accommodate his needs and those of other legitimate market vendors. There has been a subsequent movement to boycott the WFM for the rest of the season. Just in case you need any further indication of the classiness of the Gaeta family, Joe’s daughter Sabrina posted this response on Facebook (edited for clarity):

Boycotting the Weston Farmers Market for the remaining season on our behalf, Gaeta Farms and Greenhouses is NOT the right decision. As much as we appreciate everyone’s support with how unfairly we were treated we have to continue to support the farmers and other vendors who still attend the market. The Weston vendors did not ask for us to be ejected from the market, they don’t need to be punished as well. We want our vendor family to succeed. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so let’s be thankful.

The loss of Gaeta Farms will be a death blow to the Weston Farmers Market. The loss of our Farmers Market will be another self-inflicted blow in the (apparently re-energized) decline of our community.

5 Bellevue residents still without hot water.

I spoke with a number of residents at 5 Bellvue Crescent today and they are still without hot water despite being promised that the problem would be fixed on Tuesday 17th. Hundreds of people live in the building and many are children, seniors or disabled. Apparently hot water has been available for random periods of perhaps an hour on some days and this has been ongoing since June. Five Bellevue is a Toronto Community Housing building but it is managed by a private company.

This situation persists despite media coverage and the intervention of Federal NDP Candidate Yafet Tewelde. Chiara Padovani assisted tenants last year during a water outage. This lack of adequate response from the city illustrates the kind of disrespect that public housing tenants face – both subtle and in this case not so subtle. Residents had few kind words to say about Councillor Frances Nunziata and feel that her efforts on their behalf have been (to put it kindly) inadequate. They also have nowhere to turn – if they phone 311 they are told that it’s up to the management company and there’s nothing the City can do (in the residents’ words they are getting the run-around).

This is quite simply disgraceful and Councillor Nunziata owes these residents an explanation along with a realistic date for when hot water service will be restored on a permanent basis.

Greenland Farms Developer Doubles Up!

Tucked into Councillor Frances Nunziata’s latest newsletter is this gem:

1956-1986 Weston Road and 1 Little Avenue

In August 2017, I held a community meeting with the owner of 1956-1986 Weston Road and 1 Little Avenue to discuss their future plans for the site and what the community would like to see in advance of an application being submitted to the City. Yesterday, an application was formally submitted to construct two 29-storey residential towers including a 12-storey mixed use podium and underground parking.

The approximate boundaries of the development at 1956-1986 Weston and 1 Little Avenue. Click to enlarge.

The councillor didn’t mention any concerns she has with the proposal. The property is huge and runs north-west to the corner, including 1 Little Avenue.

At the meeting back in August 2017, the site owner, Weston Asset Management Inc. showed some vague (but seductive) concept drawings and proposed a single 28-storey tower atop a 6-storey podium. Two years later they’re proposing two 29-storey towers on a 12-storey podium.

Based the recent Official Plan Amendment and Rezoning Proposal, the community must have voiced its overwhelming support for the tallest and most crass development that could be squeezed onto the site. I’m guessing the community said, ‘Please destroy any remaining main street feeling on Weston Road and put up a hugely out of scale development that will overwhelm everything in the area and lead to further eyesores’.

As with other developments in the past, outrageous proposals lead to slightly less outrageous proposals. The project if built could add more than 2000 people to the already busy Weston and Lawrence intersection. Let’s not even think about the additional load placed on our inadequate sewage system (you can be sure nobody else will).

The attitude in City Hall seems to be, “It’s Weston, they should be grateful for any development”.

In most Toronto neighbourhoods, 12 storeys is a huge building. Here it’s merely a base.

Senior Planner Sabrina Salatino is asking for community input on the proposal.
(416) 394-8025
[email protected]

Councillor Nunziata would probably like some direction too:

(416) 392-4091

[email protected]