Nunziata seeks advice on cycling

Frances Nunziata is looking to form a Pedestrian and Cycling Safety Committee “whose mission will be to help plan and promote safe and enjoyable ways for pedestrians and cyclists to travel throughout the ward.”

Her office is looking for a few good people to help give input on safety and planning, and the first meetings will be in May. You can contact her, if you’re interested, through her website. I hope to see you there!

Nunziata votes for three-billion-dollar, one-stop subway

Frances Nunziata voted at City Council this week in favour of a wasteful subway.

The Scarborough subway, which will cost $3.5 billion, will have one stop, at the Scarborough Town Centre. It will lead to longer rides, have fewer stops, and be more expensive than better alternatives.

The Scarborough subway was endorsed by Rob Ford. I will say no more.

Nunziata still pushing Scarborough one-stop subway

Image from City of Toronto.

In spite of mounting evidence that the proposed ($3.35 billion and counting) one-stop Scarborough subway will be a costly mistake, our councillor is 100% behind the proposal. It’s puzzling since a seven-stop dedicated right of way LRT was already approved and paid for. Unlike the subway, even the operating costs were likely paid for.

This subway project will serve relatively few people and if passed, will be ridiculed for decades to come.

If approved, the vast amount of money needed will pinch every city department’s budget for decades to come and is already an additional 30-year burden (or levy) on our tax bills. It will also starve needier transit projects of federal and provincial funds.

So why is our councillor still insisting on giving her support?

The answer is quite simple. It seems Francis Nunziata must support the Mayor against the interests of the majority in her ward so that she can keep her job as Council Speaker.

Common sense has gone out of the window. This subway was originally sold as a three stop package that went to Sheppard East. As costs estimates ballooned, the route was shortened and two stops were cut.

One would think that before making a decision, Council would carefully listen to experts and make a decision based on the data. Not so. Dogma rules the day at Council whose members actually voted down a motion asking for data driven decisions on transit. Mayor Tory and councillor Nunziata both (along with the usual suspects) rejected that common sense idea. The mayor apparently believes that his re-election hopes lie with this subway and he seems prepared to do and say almost anything to push through the decision before more embarrassing facts emerge.

Few would deny that we need more subways in Toronto. After all, our subway map has changed minimally since the 1960s. However, there are far better candidates for a subway extension than this location. Ms Nunziata, your speaker’s job is not worth the cost to Toronto.

Read this excellent Toronto Star article on the project here.

8 Oak Street gets the chop.

The 8 Oak building is in the centre of the photo. The townhomes in the foreground were made possible by a 2004 OMB ruling. From Google Maps.

First the owners of Satin Finish proposed building 99 townhomes on their property at 8 Oak Street that runs along Knob Hill Drive. Then they ran into some opposition, had a re-think and came back with plans to build 509 units. An effort was made to save the original brick building that fronts the site on Oak but that has come to nothing. Council recently voted to allow demolition of the non-residential brick building, subject to a ‘beautification agreement’. Nobody yet knows what this means as it is subject to negotiations between the owners and council. It’s part of the Section 37 nonsense Ontario requires the city to use instead of council being able to direct developers in what they can and should do. Contrary to the site’s current industrial use zoning, the owners want the site to become an apartment and townhome development. Across the street is a set of townhomes that went through a similar process back in 2004. The OMB ruled in favour of the developer and the zoning was changed to residential.

Detailed plans for the 8 Oak Street Development. The newer proposal has a park in the centre. Click to enlarge.
Weston’s Carnegie Library – saved from demolition in 1975.

John Tory and his council allies have a huge revenue shortfall. Instead of raising the lowest property taxes in all of Ontario, they are hoping to find efficiencies (a.k.a. gravy) elsewhere.

Apparently one tactic is keeping staff low at city hall. If heritage buildings can’t be designated thanks to staff shortages, developers can take advantage of the delay and demolish priceless properties. “We’re understaffed”, is the plea from the Planning Department. Unscrupulous developers don’t like to preserve heritage buildings. Therefore one can only assume that the Planning Department is woefully short of staff by design. Consider this recent Tweet to Councillor Joe Cressy from Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat:

As the Toronto Star points out, it’s harder to chop down a tree than demolish a 110 year-old Beaux Arts heritage building.

Maybe this particular building wasn’t worthy of protection but now we’ll never know.

Incidentally, Josh Matlow is a city councillor who proactively seeks out heritage buildings in his corner of Toronto. He has listed and mapped significant properties in Ward 22. Perhaps his example should be emulated by all councillors and maybe the city should make the process less cumbersome if we are to retain any of our rapidly disappearing heritage.

Next up: bake-sales for City Hall

In the pantheon of preposterous policy proposals, this pips the pack to the post. Frances Nunziata is floating the idea—I kid you not—of a raffle to close the city’s budget gap.

Speaking to the Sun, Nunziata suggested a city lottery.

The mind reels.

There are a few reasons why this just might not work. First, the province has a monopoly on lotteries, so Toronto would be cannibalizing Ontario’s finances. Every cent spent on Toronto tickets would come out of Ontario’s cash.

Perhaps Toronto’s tickets would generate new income. If so, and if the province agreed (these are huge ifs), the tickets would draw money disproportionately from the poor and the uneducated; both communities spend a larger share of their income on lottery tickets.

Nunziata says that New York City has a lottery, and we could too. But if there is a Big Apple ticket, your correspondent cannot find it. New York State does, however, have many. There may be good reasons for this; lotteries require administrators. Small lotteries would have to give a larger share away. Why a fiscal conservative like Nunziata would like another government department remains an unanswered.

Surely we can do better.

Let me propose an alternative: tax the lucky. I get several real-estate pamphlets in my mailbox daily, encouraging me to sell. I bought my house 10 years ago, for about half of what I might get now.

About 100,000 homes will be sold this year in Toronto, and the city has an annual cash crisis of about $100 million. Raising the land transfer tax from 2.0% to 2.2% would raise about $200 million, but cost each home seller only $2000. Charging foreign buyers a 15% tax could raise much more—about $750 million would be up for grabs.

These taxes would also cut down on my junk mail dramatically.

Today’s Etobicoke York Council Decisions

Etobicoke York Council meets about once a month to deal with local issues. Local councillors discuss matters of local concern and adopt, defer or reject motions which are sent to the full council for adoption and enactment. Today’s decisions that may be of interest to our readers are:

Proposed apartment at 10 Wilby Crescent.

EYC recommends the following:

  1. Staff be directed to schedule a community consultation meeting for the lands at 10 Wilby Crescent together with the Ward Councillor.
  2. Notice for the community consultation meeting be given to landowners and residents within 120 metres of the site.
  3. Notice for the public meeting under the Planning Act be given according to the regulations of the Planning Act.

Decision: Adopted

8 Oak Street demolition

Toronto Building recommends that the City Council give consideration to the demolition application for 8 Oak Street and decide to:

Approve the application to demolish the two storey industrial building without entering into a beautification agreement with the City and the appropriate City officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to give effect thereto.

Decision: Amended

Update: The minutes don’t give details of the amendment yet, however, InsideToronto says that Councillor Nunziata asked for a heritage report on the building that will be delivered at the April EYC meeting.

Traffic Calming Poll Results – Rosemount Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT to approve installing traffic calming on Rosemount Avenue.¹

Decision: Adopted

All-Way Stop Control – Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve the installation of all-way stop controls at the intersection of Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue.

Decision: Adopted

Pedestrian Access to City Laneway – Lawrence Avenue West to MacDonald Avenue

Transportation Services recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve installing fencing across the laneway between MacDonald Avenue and Lawrence Avenue West, east of Ralph Street in order to block access to pedestrians.

Decision: Adopted


¹(Sorry, we reported this wrong. They did vote to approve speed humps.)

New rec centre delayed. Again.

The long-delayed York Recreation Centre at Black Creek and Eglinton has been—you guessed it—delayed again.

The York Community Centre

The centre’s opening had been scheduled for 2o14-15, June 2016, and then later this month. Registration had begun, and programs were scheduled. Classes have now been cancelled, and will restart (one hopes) in March. Frances Nunziata’s email circular says that drop-ins will begin before that.

Nunziata also says “I will be putting forward a motion requesting that the contract for the project is reviewed and that responsible parties be held accountable for the two years of delay in getting this centre completed.”