Metrolinx has announced that 6 stations along the Eglinton Crosstown line will be decorated with artworks chosen from 187 new and established artists’ submissions. Mount Dennis Station will be the only station to have two. The first is a collage of found images and objects by Sara Cwynar and the second, a video installation from Canadian artists based in Berlin; Hadley + Maxwell depicting the history of Mount Dennis, including the Kodak building move.
As the New Year opens, there are some hopeful signs that 2018 will be better and more cheerful than 2017. Here are a few in no particular order.
Minimum Wage and Paid Vacations.
From today, the Ontario minimum wage moves from $11.60 to $14.00. While this may be a tough slog for small businesses, for a large number of people in Weston / Mount Dennis and millions in Ontario, a 21% rise in hourly wages will be a great boost to their personal finances. Contrary to the debunked Trickle Down Theory, when poor people get money, they spend it, increasing growth.
Prescription plan for under 25 year-olds.
This little heralded plan will genuinely improve the lives of millions of Ontario children and young adults by ensuring that most prescriptions and health care supplies are provided at no cost. These two measures from the Ontario Government will provide a much needed boost to our local economy as disposable income rises. Better yet, they were implemented before an election.
The ongoing Net Zero initiative from the impressively well organized and determined Mount Dennis Community Association.
It can only get warmer.
Our spell of Alberta weather has no end in sight and is no doubt providing a bonanza to plumbers and furnace repair companies. Our days are already getting longer so can spring be far away? Besides, there are surprising benefits that come with cold weather.
Election year x 2
Here at Weston Web we love elections. Not only do we have a provincial election in June but a civic one in October.
In Ontario, Kathleen Wynne will be looking to hang on to power for the Liberals, battling the Tories’ Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath for the NDP. Locally we have Laura Albanese who has gained in confidence and competence over the years and will be a formidable opponent. She will be facing Faisal Hassan who worked locally in former NDP MP Mike Sullivan’s office and Mark DeMontis whose compelling story and hockey background may resonate.
In Etobicoke Centre, Liberal Yvan Baker will probably hold his seat despite his seemingly limited thinking skills. In Toronto last year, around 50 people were killed by people driving vehicles, yet in spite of data showing distracted driving to be the major cause of deaths, Mr Baker chose to target pedestrians with his private member’s bill.
In Toronto‘s civic elections in October, Ward 2 will see Mike Ford handily re-elected while in Ward 11, Frances Nunziata will no doubt achieve the same result. The big story will be who will win the mayoral election and thus decide the future of the city. Doug Ford is already pulling rank on nephew Mike – Mike’s Christmas message was hijacked by Uncle Doug. Frances Nunziata will likely be speaker regardless of whether Tory or Ford win since she has a foot in both camps. The big question will be if a credible centre-left candidate can run and pull the rug out from under ‘Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing’, John Tory. The Mayor has already moved his talking points sharply to the left in anticipation and will be vulnerable to Ford as a result.
Another reason for optimism is that thanks to ward distribution, the three additional council seats may not be so friendly to Mayor Tory should he be successful.
Pedestrian and Cycling Safety
Councillor Nunziata’s Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee will soon be releasing their recommendations for Ward 11.
The Weston Hub will see artists able to occupy their studio spaces in July as work continues on the 30-storey rental apartment tower, community space and rental storage facility.
Sewer Relining Ends
Sewer work will be ending this year along the Humber and peace will return, (hopefully in October) to our parks after years of clanking disruption from heavy machinery. Cyclists and walkers will appreciate having the Pan Am trail to themselves once more.
We’re Safer than Ever!
The Economist recently placed Toronto as the fourth safest city in the world after Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka.
OK readers, your turn. What makes you cheerful about 2018?
The good people at Pearen Park are looking for volunteers to help with building and maintaining the excellent, community-run outdoor rink. If you’d like to participate, they’d be glad for the help.
5. Planning and Development
Council needs to listen to the experts.
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.
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.
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.
Laura Alderson, of the Mount Dennis BIA, has an interesting idea: make Mount Dennis the largest outdoor art gallery in Toronto. She spoke to InsideToronto about it.
“What if the mobility hub becomes a way to get tourists to the neighbourhood? What if the Mount Dennis BIA became the gateway to the largest outdoor gallery in Toronto, on Industry Street,” Alderson said. “It’s an idea the BIA is looking at pursuing in order to become a ‘destination location’ that takes advantage of the new transit infrastructure.”
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.