Steps to nowhere?

Tantalizingly near completion after being out of service since last June.

Work on the steps from Hickory Tree Road and Bellevue to the Lions Park soccer field has once again ground to a halt. A call to 311 uncovered that citizens can call directly, and the name to call was temporary supervisor Nick Ovington. After two unreturned calls to Mr Ovington, it emerged that he no longer works in this area. According to Councillor Mike Ford’s Constituency Advisor, Jennifer Couto, there is a new temporary supervisor, Phil Jarow. Bottom line; the stairway “is in place waiting for the final testing procedures and final finish grading. A timeline for completion will be forwarded early next week.”

As soon as word comes from Mr. Jarow, readers will be updated.

Weston Silver Band wins big in U.S.

On March 11, the Weston Silver Band competed in the annual North American Brass Band Championships and were judged to be best of ten bands in the First Section (think divisions) winning a gold medal. WSB was the only Canadian entry out of 33 other bands. In 2013 the band placed top in the Second Section; the first Canadian band to do so.

The Band celebrates its win.
Weston Silver Band at the North American Brass Band Championships, held in Fort Wayne, Indiana on March 11, 2017.

The Weston Silver Band has an interesting history. Before immigrating to Canada, George Sainsbury, started a band in the U.K which survives to this day. Once he arrived in our neck of the woods, he formed what began as the Weston Boy’s Band in 1921 and has flourished ever since, keeping its Weston links by performing annually in the Weston Santa Claus Parade. Although at the present time there are no members who live in Weston, the band is very proud of its roots in the Weston community and keeps extensive archives of its history. Practices are still held locally every week at the Salvation Army’s York Community Church on 1100 Weston Road in Mount Dennis. The band began to draw musicians from further and further afield from Weston beginning in the late 1970s.

For their upcoming performances, click here.

Band Manager Theresa MacDonald kindly sent me some archival photos of WSB that illustrate its proud Weston heritage.

George Sainsbury and his wife.
The original Weston Boys Band in 1921 at the C.N.E.
Weston Boys Band 1924- Music Director George Sainsbury, Taken at Dr. Irwin’s Estate on Little Ave, in Weston.

Theresa tells me that when the band played in Gravenhurst last year, George Sainsbury’s grandson approached them with a music case belonging to the founder. This treasured item is now stored with the many trophies and other memorabilia gathered over the years.

The original music case belonging to George Sainsbury.
Weston Silver Band 1951 – Music Director Horace Sainsbury, Little Park, Weston.
Weston Silver Band 1960 – Music Director Wallace Mason -C.N.E Winners Class I All Brass, Best Performance, Highest Marks of All Bands, Gold Medal Cornet Solo – Jim Alexander, Gold Medal Euphonium – Ken Martin
** The band has all these shields and trophies in their archives, as well as uniforms etc.

Foreign money pushing up house prices.

The logic-defying and alarming increases in Toronto’s housing prices have affected us in Weston to some extent. The boom is largely taking place outside our borders. While we still live in an affordable area, interestingly the net effect of the current market is lower property taxes for us. This is because higher assessments in other parts of the city mean that those residents are taking a larger share of the total assessment. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that housing prices (and rents) are rising at an unsustainable rate. What are we being told about the rise in housing prices? The big lie is that it’s simply a lack of supply and that more housing is needed. Based on this lie, there are proposals to eat into Toronto’s Green Belt and put more housing there.

A new report issued this week from the Ryerson’s City Building Institute tackles the housing shortage theory and disproves it. While there is enough housing for residents, the seeming shortage is likely caused by money looking for a safe haven in Canada. According to the report, it’s hard to trace foreign money that’s causing the boom but unless we do something about money flooding our city (such as a foreign buyers’ tax or a progressive property surtax), a lot of (especially) young people will be putting themselves at risk, saddled with an impossible debt. This could trigger a financial crisis, once the bubble inevitably bursts causing even more turmoil.

Over to you Province of Ontario.

Smitherman to bid for council in 2018

George Smitherman. From ctvnews.ca

Weston native born politician, George Smitherman has announced he will run for council in next year’s civic election. While he will not run in York South-Weston, he plans to take a shot at one of the three new wards created after a boundary review and council vote last November. The condo boom of the past few years, has seen population growth in the downtown core and Smitherman hopes to end up with a home and seat there.

While a progressive councillor for Ward 11 might have been a big change from the current incumbent, all is not lost. Many vital decisions at council have been won or lost by only a few votes. Mayor John Tory opposed adding three extra wards. Why?  Possibly because the new wards are downtown and could add three progressive voices and votes which might improve the tone and dare I say humanity of Council decisions. As an added bonus, Smitherman has close ties with the Liberal Party of Canada along with Immigration Minister and York South Weston MP Ahmed Hussen so no doubt there will be a strong link to the federal government.

Here begins the speculation that the long term plan is to knock John Tory off his mayoral perch in 2022.

Stay tuned; it should be an interesting ride.

Lions Park steps almost ready.

The view from the top and the first of the two ‘decks’.

The much delayed steps that lead from Hickory Tree Road down to the soccer pitch are almost ready. The steps replace an old wooden set that was falling apart and required constant maintenance. I spoke to a worker who told me that they should be completed by the end of the week.

The steps were made in sections and shipped from Ayr, Ontario. They have been redesigned somewhat and apart from being wider, now have two ‘decks’ which will see double duty as observation platforms when soccer games are in progress. They will make life easier for people walking between Weston and Etobicoke. Unlike the steps further up the Humber at St. Phillip’s Road, there is no bicycle track up these.

Correction made on 26 February, 2017: Since these photographs were taken, workers have begun to install what looks like bike channels along with wooden handrails on either side of the stairs.

The new steps from the soccer pitch.

New transit hub proposed for Pearson Airport.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

Pearson Airport is not only Canada’s biggest airport, it’s also an employer of 40,000 49,000 people who travel from all over the GTA along with many more who work in the surrounding region. In 2015 it was North America’s 14th busiest airport with over 41 million passenger trips.

Yesterday, new plans were unveiled proposing to make Pearson a transit hub for modes as well as flight. The idea is to eventually connect with the Eglinton Crosstown Line as well as bus routes from Toronto / Mississauga / Brampton and a possible high speed rail line along the Kitchener Line. Planners hope to be able to cut down on the 65,000 vehicles entering the airport daily.

This is good news because as traffic volumes continue to grow, new links to the hub will provide other ways (in addition to our fast UP Express link) for workers to quickly access the airport using Weston / Mount Dennis as their home. The airport will relocate parking garages to create the hub which will have an entrance on Airport Road. In addition, having a transit hub closer than Union Station will be a good thing for our area.

At the moment, the idea is in an exploratory mode and if approved, would not be in service until 2027 at the earliest.

UrbanToronto has an article on the proposal 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.