Developer meeting report.

Apologies for the delay in writing this up.

There was a fair crowd at WCI on November 28 to hear the developer’s latest incarnation of a ‘Main Street Weston’ development site of 7 contiguous lots at Lawrence and Little that will set the tone for years to come. Frances Nunziata began proceedings by stating that the developer had been asked to purchase additional properties in order to justify the scale of development, hence the latest application which doubled the podium height and the number of 29-storey buildings.

The audience listened respectfully as City planner Rory McNeill began the proceedings stating that the city’s representatives were there to listen to people’s reactions and that nothing has been decided.

The reason for the meeting is that the developer has applied to be exempt from the permitted standards required for developers in Weston.

Weston is officially on an ‘Avenue’ which means that it is subject to certain styles of building. The Urban Design Guidelines for Weston (yes they still exist) call it a mixed use area which includes retail and residential uses. Weston Road building heights under the guideline are not to exceed 8 storeys with a street frontage of 3 storeys. The western portion of the site is a heritage area and that means visual impacts should be limited. Any new buildings should be ‘designed sensitively within the urban design context’

From the Weston planning guidelines. Click to enlarge.

The residential units will be market price condos. The lawyer for the developer was coy about what price they will go for saying it was too far into the future. He did say that he expected that the development will help gentrify Weston.

Audience comments:
  • The development is too large and out of scale for the area.
  • Appropriate development in Weston is not a bad thing.
  • Most tall buildings sit atop a podium that is set back from the street. This one cheats because instead of tapering, the towers spill out on a base that hangs over the podium.
  • There were mixed feelings as to the attractiveness of the development.
  • The proposed number of parking spaces is inadequate.
  • There will be greatly increased traffic issues for Little Avenue and Lawrence Avenue.

A few other random thoughts:

Toronto requires shadow studies (yes, I’m obsessed) on proposed buildings to figure out the shade they will cast on the surrounding area. The City only requires these studies for the ‘Summer’ months i.e. March 22nd , June 22nd and September 22nd. Incidentally, March 22nd and September 22nd are identical from a sunshine point of view. If green space is affected, the City requires readings for December 22nd (the date of the Winter Solstice when sunlight is at its lowest and solar noon shadows are longest). It should be noted that the shadows cast by tall buildings are at their longest between September and March. These are not pencil shaped buildings and even the podium is 12 storeys. In fact they are rather ‘slabby’ and their shadows will be considerable.

The parking lot that currently sits beside the old Greenland Farms and the current pedestrian and vehicular access from there to Lawrence Avenue will be closed by this development.

I was impressed by the people of Weston who attended – they listened politely with open minds as they gathered information about the development.

The developer through their lawyer says that a smaller version of this development will not be economically viable and keeping to the Weston Planning Guidelines is out of the question. If this developer can’t build within the guidelines, perhaps another one can.

This building will create additional traffic issues for people on Little Avenue which currently has restricted access from Weston Road.

The developer was told by the city (and / or councillor?) that purchasing adjacent properties would justify a larger scale development. Now that properties have been added, is there an obligation on the part of the City to grant the exemptions needed? If so, that is irresponsible.

The number of parking spaces is inadequate even by the most bicycle and pedestrian-minded among us. Weston is not downtown. Sadly, a car is needed to have a reasonable quality of life here and I invite anyone who thinks otherwise to tell us how they do it. The average Toronto household contains 2.63 people. The 592 residential units would likely be home to 1500+ people. The developer’s proposed 174 parking spaces for residents, seven (!) for visitors and zero spaces (!!) for retail is as the Brits would say, ‘taking the piss’ and is a transparent attempt to maximize profits at the community’s expense.

View the slides from the presentation here.

The person behind this development is Catherine Bertucci. There’s not much web evidence of her activity but she’s not popular with the Casa Loma Residents Association where a few years ago, she and a partner bought up Maclean House, a heritage building and according to the association,

“The property had been purchased by Catherine Bertucci and John Malcolm Todd via a numbered company and all they proceeded to obtain vacant possession by arranging for all tenants to vacate the premises.  Prior to obtaining any demolition or building permits the developers were advised of the heritage interest by the Community and City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Services.  While the legal process was underway to determine whether the City would official designate the property as architecturally significant, the developer proceeded to begin demolition of the property including the reckless destruction of many of the significant architectural details of John Lyle’s Maclean House – details that have stood untouched for 100 years.”

It’s still not clear if the developer intends to preserve the heritage buildings near Little Avenue or just the facades.

In conclusion, the developer wants to:

  • build and sell buildings nearly seven times taller than allowable,
  • not provide the required setbacks from the street
  • provide only 33% of the required parking for residents
  • provide no parking for retail stores (instead of 127 required)
  • provide only 40% of the required amenity space per unit

Every high rise along Weston Road began life as a beautiful concept drawing, sold to the community as a future architectural gem and a much needed improvement on the status quo. This one is no different.

There is no doubt that Weston needs development. It just doesn’t need this one.

Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you regarding this development:

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.

Weston Asset Management Development questions

On Thursday November 28, at Weston Collegiate Institute, a meeting will be held to assess public reaction to a huge development proposed for Weston’s old ‘Main Street’.

There’s no doubt development is needed in Weston. The question is what form should it take? Do we want the familiar streetscape of the current architecture (Bloor West Village style), something moderately larger or are people ok with the gargantuan development being proposed. Once a pattern of new development along Weston Road is established, it will set the trend. Until recently, the plan for Weston was for something moderate that would fit into the streetscape.

Now there is no mention of Weston in Toronto’s official Plan and it seems strange that this has happened without community input.

Here’s what the old guidelines said about development in the area.

GUIDELINES

The following general objectives have been established for the Weston area.

Weston will be recognized as a distinct and significant community within the City of Toronto,
as a community rooted in its history. Weston has experienced considerable change in land use, employment, retail activity and residential character and will continue to experience these changes in the future. The challenge is to recapture Weston’s unique character of the past within a greatly changed urban area and reality. These guidelines will help manage any future change within Weston in order to achieve the following goals:

  • The revitalization of retail and community activity along Weston Road as the strong and attractive heart of Weston
  • The maintenance of the quality of life in the neighbourhoods
  • The introduction of new residential development along the Weston Road corridor
  • The generation of new employment opportunities on former industrial lands
  • The enhancement of the Humber Valley as an environmental and recreational asset for the city.

All buildings located in Weston Village will be limited to a maximum height of 24 metres with the following exception:

– buildings fronting onto Weston Road and/or John Street will be limited to a maximum height of 3 storeys or 9 metres for all portions of the buildings located within 6 metres of the street line. Any additional height above the third storey will be set back a minimum of 3 metres from the face of the base building to a maximum height of 8 storeys (24 metres) 

Why is 8 stories no longer the limit? Surely Councillor Nunziata should have kept the community informed of this change, official or not. To go from 8 to 29 stories is a huge increase.

There seems to be an effort from supporters of this project to put their thumb on the scale – one person alone commented 9 times on the previous article. The attitude from some supporters seems to be, “Shut up and be grateful NIMBY”.

There’s nothing wrong with development provided it enriches the community – not just the developer. This project is way too large and will do nothing for the community except add traffic, shadow and sewage issues.

It’s not as if we haven’t learned this lesson before. When the Weston Hub was proposed, it was going to be a shining beacon and provide all things to all people, including an indoor / outdoor farmers market and community centre. Now it looks as if there won’t even be room for the Farmers Market when traders use the designated space next May.

Questions that should concern every Weston resident:

  • Do we want to place these huge high rises in the heart of Weston?
  • Why is this development not in keeping with the scale of the area.
  • Why has the project doubled in size since the last public consultation?
  • If this project is approved, where will the considerable Section 37 monies be spent? (Let’s hope no more Nychtophilias)
  • Why are there so few parking spaces allocated? (There are 7 above ground parking spaces (for visitors) and 174 below ground for a building that will house more than a thousand people. Weston is not downtown Toronto.)
  • If a supermarket opens on the second floor, where will people park and how will they carry groceries to their cars?
  • Where are the shadow studies for the winter months?
  • Who are the people behind Weston Asset Management?
  • Why does Weston Asset Management have no web presence?
  • What is Councillor Nunziata’s position on this development?

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.

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.

Local Tory candidate reflects.

Conservative candidate Jasveen Rattan on the campaign trail. From Instagram.

York South-Weston is a tough nut to crack for Tory politicians. The riding, both federally and provincially, has consistently elected Liberals with the occasional NDP exception. MP Mike Sullivan, MPP Paul Ferreira and current MPP Faisal Hassan are the three exceptions.

Last year, Conservative candidate Mark DeMontis came within a whisker of winning in 2018’s Big Blue Wave courtesy of Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne. Local man DeMontis, with a compelling back-story, courted the area politically and there was speculation that had he stuck around for another campaign (namely the recent federal one), he might have been able to pull off a victory. In June, DeMontis announced he had moved on to focus on his role with the Ontario Government thus making way for candidate Jasveen Rattan.

As an unknown parachute candidate from Mississauga and without a Big Blue Wave to propel her, she faced an uphill task eventually finishing a distant second to incumbent Liberal Ahmed Hussen. In the article, Rattan frames her result as the most successful for a federal Tory in over 40 years but in reality, her vote total and share of the popular vote were almost identical to those of 2015 Tory candidate James Robinson.

TVO’s Steve Paikin has written an article dealing with the Tories’ recent loss and focusses on Ms Rattan and York South Weston. In the article, Ms Rattan states that the people of York South Weston need help. I wonder if she will be providing that help between elections (along the lines of Chiara Padovani and Yafet Tewelde), or whether we can look forward to yet another new Tory face to contest the next election.

Read Steve Paikin’s article here.

Lions Park Litter Bins Redux

Faithful readers may remember that the garbage and recycling bins in Lions Park have been an issue since the soccer pitch was installed many years ago. The problem is that the people who use the soccer field remove the bins from their stakes and use them as goal posts.

Some liberated bins after use as goalposts.
More litter is a by-product of the bins’ new function.

Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department and Toronto’s Solid Waste Management people can’t get their act together to solve this fairly simple problem.

With no bins, more litter is created.

Why not lock the bins to the stakes you ask? This was done as a response to my complaints in 2013. Unfortunately, when the Solid Waste people ‘forget’ to lock bins up after emptying, they go missing. This considerably simplifies their job next time.

This post by the stairs has lost both bins and is a safety hazard for players running past the goal line.
The lock is still there but the recycling bin is gone. The person who placed it there won’t need to bother with the key next time.

Despite my many attempts to get this problem addressed permanently, it seems that no one at either the Parks or Solid Waste divisions cares enough to create a fix and follow up with some long-term supervision.

I’ll be phoning 311 and will follow up with a post-script on this article. Incidentally, if more of us phone 311 when there is a problem in our neck of the woods, we will get more action.

Post Script: A very pleasant gentleman knew the location well (Weston Collegiate Alum) took the details and will be contacting the appropriate people. He told me it will be taken care of within a month.

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.

Election post-mortem thoughts.

From: National Post.

Now the election is over, Doug Ford is about to be released back into the broad daylight of Ontario politics. Apparently if he sees his shadow it means another 6 months of cuts.

Ford’s enforced absence during the campaign proved that federal Conservatives are embarrassed by his brainless, dogma-driven actions along with slash and burn service cuts for lower and middle income earners. He and federal leader Andrew Scheer are no doubt blaming each other for the Liberals’ lucky escape. The political long knives are out for both of them. Patrick Brown will be chomping some popcorn from his Brampton mayor’s chair.

The Ford Name also failed to work the charm in nearby Etobicoke North where Rob Ford’s widow Renata was running as a first-time candidate. Despite her less than dynamic presence under the People’s Party banner, her Ford name was enough to give Maxime Bernier a seat at the English debate because she was considered a genuine contender. She finished in the also-ran category with 2.8% of the vote but has promised to return under the same banner.

The Conservatives in York South-Weston need to run local candidates who don’t disappear after each election.

It turned out that there was a Big Red Wave after all but only in Ontario. Ahmed Hussen has been given a fresh mandate to continue his aloof ways. The sight of Frances Nunziata campaigning alongside him was additional evidence that he’s far too good for York South-Weston and we definitely should be grateful to have him.

The NDP need to intensify their focus on working families struggling to make ends meet rather than by tangling themselves up in layers of dogma and political correctness. A lot more people care about minimum wage than how many genders there are. They also need to tackle the motivations of 43% of the York South-Weston electorate who declined the opportunity to vote.

All election signs must be removed by 9:30pm Thursday.