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.

Family moves to Weston and loves it.

This is a headline that will never be seen outside of this publication. Good news will always takes second place to crime and violence.

‘If it bleeds it leads’ is often used in the news business.  News outlets want images and videos violence and crime scenes. It’s visual clickbait and improves ratings. Positive news doesn’t stand a chance alongside death and destruction. As a result, our view of the outside world is often distorted. The media’s focus on violence gives a false impression of our society making it seem more dangerous than it is.

From nicmaxxonline.com

Millions of Torontonians achieve happiness and success daily and nobody gets to hear about it. That’s the nature of news.

When it comes to Weston, things are no different. Hundreds of people moved to Weston in the past couple of years. The vast majority are happy to be here and lead satisfying, productive lives. Sadly, there have been shootings and other acts of violence in our community and these get the lion’s share of attention and that’s not always a bad thing because it’s important that something is done to find the causes and solutions.

Unfortunately, the press has a short attention span. After violent events, the police are asked what they will do to counter an upsurge in violence. The answer is usually a temporary band aid fix until things improve or until other news comes along. We all know that treating the symptoms rather than causes is ineffective.

I am a great fan of probability. This is the branch of mathematics that tries to calculate the likelihood of events. Probabilities are expressed by a number between 0 and 1. For example, the probability of a hot sunny day at this time of year is almost 0. The probability of matching six numbers in Lotto 6/49 is ridiculously close to 0. On the other hand, the probability that a Toronto pedestrian will be hit by a car today is close to 1 (More than two thousand people are hit by cars every year in Toronto).

Our ability to judge probabilities is notoriously poor. For example, how likely are two people in a group of 30 people to have the same birthday?  It’s about 0.7. Put this another way; ask 30 people to think of a number between 1 and 365 and you have an excellent chance that two of those people will guess the same number.

Many of us have bought lottery tickets feeling our chances of matching all six numbers are reasonable enough to keep buying tickets. Certainly much higher than the roughly one in 14 million chance (approx 0.000000071428571428571 as a number) Consider how optimistic we feel when checking our numbers and compare that to our actual chance.

Lotteries; a tax on the mathematically challenged?

What are your chances of getting hit by a car? It depends. If you’re a senior, out on a rainy night, wear dark clothing and cross the road, especially between intersections, your risk is higher. This is not to attach blame to the pedestrian (motorists are legally required to drive safely and adapt to the prevailing conditions) but all of these factors are definitely a consideration, especially when we know that there are intoxicated, careless and inattentive drivers out there.

We can control many risks in our daily lives. We wear seat belts in the car and stay away from the subway platform edge. These are sensible and proven precautions aimed at a real risk. On the other hand, when we overestimate the odds of something happening, our quality of life can suffer.

The probability of being attacked by a shark is tiny – close to that of matching all six numbers. If you stay out of the water, you improve your odds but lose the joy of swimming in an ocean. Yes, people get ‘taken’ by sharks and people also win the El Gordo but we deprive ourselves and limit our possibilities by overestimating dangers.

Crime is generally not random. Attackers are often known by their victims. Much violent crime occurs at night and on weekends most crimes happen at night. Poor and cooler weather seems to discourage crime. July is the month when most shootings occur and January / February have the least. Our current crime wave seems to be partly driven by domestic terrorists looking for notoriety by targeting (usually young and black) people in other neighbourhoods. Social media seems to be the place where they can bask in their new-found notoriety.

So where does that leave people who see crime stories and decide that an area is no longer safe? Is this a reasonable response?

The answer is clearly no for most people.

What can residents do to lower their risk of being a victim?

Since there’s little risk in the first place, the best advice is to carry on and not be ruled by fear. You still cross the road and that’s the most dangerous thing that anyone can do in this city. By fearfully abandoning a neighbourhood, you become a part of the problem and you lower your own quality of life.

To the families who have made Weston their home in recent years; welcome. You were right to move here. Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying your new neighbourhood.

If you see crime you can report it and be rewarded anonymously here.

Metrolinx: Merge UPX into GO.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

A Toronto Star article published today sheds light on a leaked internal Metrolinx document from February of this year that proposes huge changes to the UP Express. The document proposes that when the Kitchener line is electrified in 2025, the airport train would become part of the GO system and use the same new rolling stock. The current UPX stop at Union Station will also be relocated because of increased numbers – at the cost of at least $77.4 million and some inconvenience to passengers – according to the planning document.

The plan leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Where will airport travellers store their luggage on commuter trains built to maximize numbers of people? What will happen to the separate UPX and GO platforms at Weston Station? What will become of the existing UPX trains which were designed to be converted to electrical power? Will the UPX airport platform need revamping to accommodate the new and larger trains? When will the changes take place?

It’s clear that the change won’t happen for at least five years. On the bright side; there’ll likely be two changes of the provincial government between now and then so anything can happen. My bet is that Doug Ford’s austerity regime will modify it severely or put it (and electrification) firmly on the back burner for a future government to tackle.

Read more here.

Update: According to CP24, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Akins has stated that the $77.4 million needed to enable relocation of the Union Station platform is no longer ‘necessary’. The money would have been spent on a pedestrian bridge initially proposed thanks to the platform’s southerly relocation.

The austerity prediction didn’t take long to be borne out. Read more here.

Update #2: The UPX platform specifically designed for UP Express trains will become redundant once the move is made to electrified GO trains. According to the Globe and Mail,

“…the Union Pearson Express will load in a different part of the station – leaving the soaring Zeidler-designed wood space where the train now stops to find a new use – and its unique rolling stock will be replaced gradually by regular GO trains.”

It’s hard to imagine what that new use would be – unless it’s re-purposed as a museum dedicated to the follies of GTA transit decisions. There could be sections devoted to David Collennette, Mike Harris, Mel Lastman, Rob Ford, Frances Nunziata and Glenn De Baeremaeker to name but a few.

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]

Ban on New Payday Loan Outlets?

From somos.presente.org

Councillor Frances Nunziata is attempting (with council colleagues) to freeze the number of payday loan companies in Toronto through a Council by-law that would stop licensing new ones.

Payday loan outlets have expanded exponentially and have tended to cluster in lower income areas. Weston has more than its fair share of them.

Payday loan / check cashing companies began in the U.S. in the 1990s thanks to repeal of usury laws there. It was the Harper Conservatives who opened the door to payday loan companies across Canada. The maximum interest rate under the Criminal Code was (and still is) 60% annually before the Tories opened a Pandora’s Box loophole in 2007. Provinces were allowed to regulate their own rates after that. The Wynne Liberals tightened the rules slightly (nothing the industry couldn’t drive a truck through) and lowered the rates to the current astronomical level.

Why do payday loan companies exist? Especially when they charge loan-shark levels of interest. Without customers, PLCs would have gone out of business long ago. The chart below illustrates some of the reasons offered by customers.

Reasons for using a PLC. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

There are three reasons for PLCs’ continued existence:

One reason is the failure of Canada’s banking quintopoly™ to make their more affordable services known and widely available to low-income Canadians. Also by closing branches, they have been allowed to shirk their moral obligation to provide banking and financial education to the poor. Many people don’t realize how much a payday loan costs – $15 interest per $100 borrowed over two weeks is an annual interest rate of 391%.

Relative costs of borrowing $300 for 14 days. . Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

The second reason PLCs exist is a systemic poverty that prevents people from getting ahead. Ontario’s minimum wage is $14.00 an hour or about $29,000 annually. This is about $2000 lower than it should have been thanks to Premier Ford cancelling the planned January 1 minimum wage increase to $15.00. Ford (and others including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce) claimed that a higher minimum wage would kill jobs, lower profits and trigger inflation. When the min-wage was increased from $11.60 to $14.00, none of the dire predictions came true. Ford was dead wrong. Yes, For The People indeed.

Lastly, our living costs are astronomical. An income of over $100,000 is needed to afford the payments on a one-bedroom condo apartment in Toronto. Rental units are rising too. Toronto’s public housing has a 7 to 10-year waiting list and is in a state of chronic disrepair and neglect. Gangs, cockroaches and bedbugs are allowed to operate relatively unfettered inside their confines.

Thanks once again go to dear leader, Premier Ford who dismantled Ontario’s successful Cap and Trade program that was set to provide billions towards public housing, school repairs and upgrades. All together now: For the People.

Although banking is a federal matter, York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen has been silent on the banking industry despite being prodded to make some remarks on the topic. He represents one of the poorest ridings in the country (not that he actually lives here) yet fails to be moved by the plight of people victimized by the failure of our current banking system.

There are alternatives to PLCs. Anyone in Canada can open a low cost bank account that can charge a maximum of, $4.00 in monthly fees. Account holders are allowed up to 12 debit transactions a month and other features. Account holders can gain access to financial advice.

Even better, Luminus Credit Union has a branch at 2011 Lawrence Ave W unit 11 ( 416-243-0686). They have a zero-fee, zero minimum-balance checking account.

Of course we can (and should) stop new PLCs in Toronto but that’s not going to fix the predation caused by existing ones, idiotic legislation, low wages and costly housing.

This is a lucrative  industry with well-placed and well-financed lobbyists. Let’s see if Councillor Nunziata and Toronto City Council can begin the process of eliminating the scourge of payday lenders from Weston and the rest of the city. If they can do that, then they can move on to bigger actions.

From Richmond Times Dispatch.

Learn more about payday loan companies here.

York Memo Fire Statement – more questions than answers.

Seeing Through the School (file)

A confidential report on the York Memorial School fires of May 6th and 7th has been completed by the Ontario Fire Marshal based on investigations into the cause of the blaze that devastated the historic structure. The public will not see it for some time but a copy is now in the hands of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.

A spokesperson for  the OFM said yesterday that the fire was one event and was accidental in nature.

“This was a single-event fire originating within the wall cavities of the structure in the area of the school auditorium,”

Once the statement was released it was clear that was to be no further comment from any involved parties until more information is available. The Toronto District School Board is scrambling to make the former Scarlett Heights Academy available for the approximately 1000 students and staff on September 3rd and would not comment.

Readers may remember that Chief Pegg at the time called the May 7th blaze, ‘Separate and distinct’. While it’s now clear that there was one cause and that it was accidental (which is some good news at least), the statement has reporters and members of the public examining the chicken entrails in order to tease out more information. These troubling questions remain unanswered:

  • If this was a single fire that managed to smoulder overnight and re-emerge the following afternoon, who was responsible?
  • Was the Toronto Fire Department at fault in not killing the fire on May 6th?
  • Should there have been TDSB or TFD personnel on fire watch overnight at the school?
  • Why did Chief Pegg say there were two separate and distinct fires?
  • Can the school be saved or will it have to be demolished?
  • What about other old schools in Toronto – are students at risk?

No doubt there is much to be learned from the fire. Let’s hope the report and its recommendations can be released soon so that these and other questions can be answered.