Ward 11 Cycle and Pedestrian Report for Weston / Mount Dennis

The recently released ‘MOVING FORWARD‘ is ‘An Action Plan to Improve Safety and Opportunities for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Ward 11’. It’s a huge and detailed report by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee (PSCC) and contains 31 recommendations. The plan was commissioned by Councillor Frances Nunziata in an effort to create a safe environment for cyclists and pedestrians in Ward 11. It has already received praise in other jurisdictions.

One of the slogans used by the authors is, “A safe pedestrian is a happy pedestrian.” If I may be so bold as to suggest a corollary, “An unsafe pedestrian or cyclist becomes a motorist”.

A map of Ward 11 with locations of recommendations. (From the report.) Click to enlarge.

The PSCC Plan has 31 recommendations grouped around four main areas:

  1. Pedestrian safety
  2. Add safe cycling options to our streets and roads.
  3. Ensure that people can reach key destinations safely by walking or cycling
  4. Ideas that don’t fit into 1-3.

It’s well worth a read. Let’s hope it doesn’t gather dust somewhere.

CityTV report on 1730 and 1736 Weston Road

A screen shot from the CityTV article.

If there was evidence needed of gentrification in Weston, this next item might provide some.

CityTV did a story on Thursday, March 29 about the building at 1730 Weston Road where it seems the landlord, Westhaven Property Management Inc., has issued 60-day notice to tenants, many of whom are on year-to-year leases. There are apparently no plans to renovate or demolish and replace 1730 Weston Road.

The building right next door at 1736 Weston Road is home to Grace Restoration Ministries and has a notice in the front window stating that the site will be redeveloped.

Councillor Nunziata makes an appearance at the end of the news segment but provides little comfort to tenants, basically saying that if the building does get redeveloped, the new one must have retail on the ground floor or else she won’t support it.

Watch the video here.

The latest take on the Weston Hub

The Farmers Market with lots of room on its old site back in July 2004. (File).

Churchill once said that, “History is written by the victors”. An article in  UrbanToronto.ca, (basically a public relations organ for the local real estate and development industries) tells a sanitized version of the background story of the soon to be opened Weston Hub.

The article’s author, Dean Macaskill, has been involved in Toronto real estate since 1980 and was with the company given the GO Station parking lot listing back in 2012. The land was put on the market by the Toronto Parking Authority and according to Macaskill, the 5 offers received on the 1.42 acre site were, ‘at rather depressed pricing levels’.

What’s not mentioned in the article are thoughts at the time that the land belonged to the old town of Weston and that it should not be sold. Also, unlike the wealthy Wychwood Barns neighbourhood which received close to $20 million from the City for their Artscape project, poor old Weston received essentially nothing.

The message seems to be that no one wanted to invest in Weston until this development came along and since that time, developers have been falling all over themselves to buy into our community. He neglects to mention that his listing stated, “Area Is Undergoing Significant Change With Other High Rise Condominiums Planned In The Immediate Area.” Also missing in action is any mention of the 370 rental apartments and 40,000 square feet of storage units that came as part of the deal.  The 8000 square foot space devoted to the cultural hub seems rather ungenerous by comparison. Another unmentioned issue of contention is the tight space given to the Farmers Market .

Now that the Hub is nearing completion, we’ll all have to make the best of it and hope it’s a success – but it could have been so much better no matter what shine is put on it.

Just to cheer you up, here’s a Metro Morning  interview with Artscape’s Tim Jones talking to CBC’s Matt Galloway recently on the same topic.

Interesting assessment of Toronto Council

From nevillepark.ca. Click to enlarge.

Political blogger Neville Park has created a chart of Toronto’s current council and has sorted members into a matrix of four attributes; Progressive (good)/ Conservative (evil) and Lawful / Chaotic. If your political leanings go the other way, simply switch the good and evil terms.

Interestingly our own councillor has been classified by Ms. Park as Chaotic / Evil and is lumped in with some kindred spirits in the bottom right. She states that Ms. Nunziata started the term off well but has, “…since backslid into ‘peevish substitute teacher’ mode”.

Park tells councillors who object to their placement to, “…vote and act differently”.

Read her placement rationales here.

Rental apartments – what to do?

From RentSeeker.ca

Weston and Mount Dennis residents may have noticed that our little corner of Toronto seems to be undergoing a boom in real-estate turnovers and new projects. The reason seems to be our newly acquired 7-days a week, frequent, rapid and reasonably priced transportation to downtown and the airport.

Instead of the usual condos, many new development proposals seem to be for rental apartments. The average rental accommodation vacancy rate in Toronto is 1% and Toronto Council is keen to have more rental accommodation citing a need for 8000 new apartments every year in order to satisfy demand. The Rockport apartments on John Street will be market rate rentals when they open next year.

There is a shortage of good quality rental accommodation because developers have focussed on condos over the last few decades thanks in part to rent controls and the higher cost of building rental apartments. Condo developers can pre-sell units before construction starts and therefore need less money. Rental apartments therefore have greater financing costs and in addition are taxed at a higher rate than condos. This is why there are some new financial incentives for rental builders.

The theory goes that good quality rental buildings will attract empty nesters and free up space in larger homes for families.  More rentals will ease the upward price pressure on rents. This is clearly a laudable goal.

Unfortunately, City planners don’t care where they go. They no doubt have a quota in mind and they’re gonna fill it. Guidelines and restrictions seem to be routinely ignored along with a regard for the needs of a neighbourhood. Rental apartments have to be built and they’ll get built come hell or high water. The problem is that even with generous incentives, apartment builders may end up building as high and cheaply as possible.

A rental apartment building that is poorly built will not command market rents and will end up with a single demographic. It’s recognized that good neighbourhoods have a mix of people.

Looking down Weston Road at Weston’s cluster of mostly rental apartment buildings. Click to enlarge. From Apple Maps. Note that Apple hasn’t updated its map since the UP Express line was under construction.

What to do?

There’s nothing wrong with good quality, well-run rental apartments. Back in the stone age I quite happily lived in a few – they were clean, had nice amenities and were state of the art for the time. Even though we have better tenant protections now, there is a danger that a cheaply constructed building will quickly deteriorate.

Councillor Nunziata and the relevant resident’s groups should therefore lobby hard for buildings built to a high standard that will appeal to a wide demographic.

Plus, new buildings don’t all have to be 25 or 30 storeys do they?

Extra credit reading here.

More on the 1705 Weston Road Development

The architect’s 3-D view of the project looking south on Weston Road. (Click to enlarge)

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.

The site is south of the GO parking lot as Weston Road curves southwards. (Click to enlarge)
Toronto Official Plan land use designations in Weston. (Click to enlarge)

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.

The real Stonehenge. From commons.wikimedia.org

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

Budget subcommittee presentations this afternoon and tonight.

This afternoon and tonight at the York Civic Centre, Budget Subcommittee members will hear public presentations on the 2018 Operating & Capital Budgets at the York Civic Centre, located at 2700 Eglinton Ave. W. on January 9, 2017. Included in the discussion will be proposed changes to user fees.

It will be interesting to see if the John Tory administration will continue to increase user fees to place more of the burden on users. If they don’t, it might indicate a leftward shift in time for next October’s election.

There will be two sessions; one beginning at 3 pm and the other from 6 to 8 pm.