I’m voting Green

I will be voting for Nicki Ward, the Green candidate. I think she would be a superb representative for York South–Weston.

I’ve seen Ward at three debates, and she’s always the same: extremely smart and very direct. She speaks her mind, and she does so with panache. She’s also quite funny. I get the impression that Ward is running a capable campaign on an $8 budget—and I’d love to see what she can do with an office staff.

I happen to agree with much of Green Party platform, but I don’t think it really matters. Ward is a pragmatist, not a dogmatist, and in the debates, she showed herself to be extremely focused on York South–Weston, and the issues that affect us here. She had good ideas for getting more federal money into the riding, and has been—correctly—shocked that we have seen so little.

She’s not the perfect candidate. I think more people would vote for Ward if they knew her, but she hasn’t had much of a presence in the community between elections. That’s a shame, and it’s to her detriment and ours. I also think that the Green Party likely has more dumb drama than The Bachelor.

Finally, I’m unwilling to reason circularly for long enough to vote strategically. I should vote for the person I think you think I will vote for, and you’ll vote for the person you think I think you’ll vote for? No.

What about Hawa Mire, NDP?

Mire seems to be a very good candidate, and I gave serious thought to voting for her. She knows the issues and the details, and has an excellent grasp of policy and her party’s platform. She seems to be energetic and smart, and she has been working locally for months before the election. She appears to be a good advocate for local issues.

And, there’s no getting around it: it would probably help to have a party machine to get stuff done. Nicki Ward may struggle because of this, but Mire would bring the NDP’s machinery with her to office.

That said, Mire did say Canada “could be called a terrorist state”, an idea I find offensive. She also said that Trudeau faced violence on the campaign trail because elected officials haven’t taken the rise of hate groups seriously; I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s fair. Mire also declined to attend the second debate.

What about Ahmed Hussen, Liberal?

Ahmed Hussen is smart, hardworking, and frequently charismatic. In my view, though, he is not a good representative for our riding, nor an exceptionally good federal minister.

Hussen does go door-to-door, but he doesn’t answer my messages and he doesn’t attend debates. I get that I’m just a blogger, so I’m not much bothered by the former. I am very irritated by the latter. Debates are a crucial part of democracy—the only chance most of us get to hear candidates defend their records and to be challenged on local issues.

As long as he refuses to attend debates, I will refuse to vote for him.

Also, as far as I know (I could be wrong), the only money he has brought to Weston recently was a $35 million loan to build low-cost housing. In an era of unprecedented public spending, a modest loan seems to me like very little pork from a federal minister.

And though all politics is local, I can’t forget that he was an intransigent and dogmatic Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship during the period refugees were seeking asylum through a literal and legal loophole.

More recently, Hussen has overseen the housing portfolio and an unfair and unsustainable rise in housing prices. And yes, though this is a global phenomenon, it is to some degree his responsibility. Canada’s housing prices rose the second most in the OECD. They are also the third-least affordable. He should have done more, faster, and farther in advance.

What about Sajanth Mohan?

Mohan, the Conservative candidate, may be an excellent person and a superb candidate, but we wouldn’t know it. I had never heard of him before the election, and he didn’t attend the debates. Also the Conservatives’ climate change “plan” is unworthy of the name.

Weston Park: it’s not a community centre…

Back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of late February 2020, I attended a concept meeting held at Weston Park Baptist Church (WPBC) to discuss development of the lands at the south-east corner of Weston and Lawrence. The development, known as Weston Park will occupy quite a large property stretching from the old Scotiabank building on the corner to the actual church itself including parking spaces currently on loan to Metrolinx. As I said at the time, the meeting was a veritable love-fest with lots of feel-good messages and the promise of a community asset that would incorporate the two existing buildings while emphasizing some of the historical aspects of the Weston community. A promise was made of community consultation through the whole planning process.

The Weston Park Development site. Adapted from Google Maps.

Fast forward to last Monday and a second meeting was held via Zoom (with over 130 participants) to reveal the latest thoughts from WPBC and the developer, Castlepoint Numa.

According to Councillor Frances Nunziata, the project is attempting to enhance the community through the following:

  • Bring in new investment and strengthen community ties
  • Create a vibrant multi-use hub
  • Use high architectural design standards
  • Incorporate a mix of community, retail, commercial and residential use
  • Respect the rich heritage of the Weston Community and the WPBC.
  • Connect to transit, pedestrian and cycling networks.
  • Be a visible gateway to UP Express and GO trains

After preliminary introductions were made, some concept drawings were unveiled. It should be noted that there is no obligation on the part of the developer to actually build what is shown, rather they are a set of preliminary ideas.

The view from Weston Road. Presentation screen shot.
The view from Lawrence avenue on a future foggy day. The old Scotiabank wedge is on the right. Presentation screen shot.
The Sanctuary / Performance Hall with sight lines along Bellvue looking towards the Humber. Presentation screen shot.
The gymnasium. Presentation screen shot.
The Gallery / Atrium. Presentation screen shot.
A bird’s eye view of the development. Presentation screen shot.

What’s in the latest presentation?

It’s still quite vague but that’s understandable at this early stage. Interestingly, part of the site contains a major sewage pipe, so no new development can take place on that part. In order to get around this, the existing church building will be moved down Weston Road to the south-eastern edge of the property. The church’s proposed new location can be seen in the last diagram. The pipe follows a diagonal line from the station.

There are plans for community spaces such as a gym, gallery and sanctuary / performance hall. The latter will feature a huge window at the back of the stage that will look onto Bellvue and the Humber River beyond. The WAES food bank will also be accommodated in the development. There will be retail stores and restaurants on the ground floor of the development. It’s far too soon to know who will occupy the stores.

A Y-shaped woonerf will be incorporated as a multi-use thoroughfare that will link Lawrence and Weston and provide a walkway and sight-line to the station. Pedestrians, cyclists and traffic will mingle freely on this paved area that will be partly covered by the development before it emerges on Lawrence.

Partcipants were concerned that the woonerf will be used as a short cut by cars between Lawrence and Weston. This didn’t seem to have occurred to project organizers.

The elephant in the room was referred to only briefly. What will finance all the community bling? Will there be rental fees for the gym, gallery and sanctuary / performance hall or will they be subsidized by fees from the developer? What will happen to Section 37 money generated by the development?

The answer seems to rest in the two large apartment towers that will set a record height for Weston. The smaller will be 28 storeys while the larger will be 38. The Weston Hub’s 30-storey apartment building on John Street seems to have set a target for future developments. While the hundreds of apartments will constitute the vast majority of the project, there were no apartment layouts or any description of them. Often a development will list numbers of one-bedroom apartments and so on (square footage, ratio of bedroom options etc.). Maybe it’s too early yet but the City will certainly have a say as the trend is to encourage developers to include a bigger ratio of two and three-bedroom apartments.

The developers also haven’t decided if the apartments will be condo’s or rentals.

As in all modern developments, a large issue will be parking. Developing the site will mean the removal of almost 70 existing parking spaces currently used by UPX and GO commuters. Additional parking will also be needed for hundreds of residents, churchgoers, community activity participants and customers of the retail stores and commercial spaces. By necessity, Weston is a car oriented neighbourhood. We’re a long way from being a 20-minute neighbourhood. Where will all these people park and how will commuters be discouraged from using up the development’s spaces? There was no mention of bike parking.

The height of the towers seems excessive. Especially considering the low-rise nature of Weston Road. No doubt City planners will trim them down marginally but once built, they’ll be hugely prominent for decades. If the towers are to be so tall (and they likely will be), what can be done to make them attractive? Other than wispy concept drawings, there was little about the external appearance of the towers. As illustrated they look like what one expects architectural drawings of Toronto towers to look like. There was also little discussion of the effect that hundreds of new residents would have on transportation and infrastructure. Wind and shadow studies will hopefully show minimal effects on the recently renovated community space already existing on the opposite corner of Weston and Lawrence.

With only 90 minutes allowed for the presentation, many things weren’t discussed. One would hope that all flat roof surfaces would be green and accessible. It also would be nice if outdoor restaurant seating could be contained within the woonerf area away from traffic noise and would be a natural draw for pedestrians. Participants expressed concern that there needs to be some thought put into the design of anti-crime features that will keep loitering down once businesses are closed for the day. Also, there probably should be a pedestrian crossing of Weston Road at Bellevue for safety and to encourage the connection to the Humber.

Sidewalks are already very constrained on the opposite side of Weston Road from the project and there is a very busy bus stop on the opposite corner (Weston is a major transit hub). There probably needs to be more thought paid to this. Sidewalks on Weston Road north of Lawrence were recently widened but by far the greater need is south of Lawrence.

In conclusion, when I saw the proposals in November 2020, I was encouraged by what seemed like a partnership literally made in heaven. Now it seems like the devil is in the details: a pair of precedent-setting tall towers with some (admittedly major) goodies thrown in to make the towers palatable. The development may also cause major stress on existing infrastructure including roads, sidewalks, parking and sewers.

It is up to Westonians to make their feelings known and express their opinions on the development. If you haven’t watched the presentation I highly recommend that you do.

As the project stands, much like the Weston Hub, the net community benefit won’t be known for years while the precedent of ever taller towers will be well and truly cemented in stone. The developers used the phrase, our ambition is to make Weston Park the centre of the community, not a community centre. Time will tell if that will happen but great stock is placed by the City in the opinions of residents during the consultation process.

Watch the Zoom presentation here.

Find the Weston Park Development information and resident feedback site here.

Correction: Frontlines Vice-Chair Brigitte Sasche tells me that there are no plans to include Frontlines in the development. That reference has been removed.

Register for your COVID vaccine: but hurry!

This vaccine rollout is becoming inhumane. It’s like trying to beat the bots and buy concert tickets online—but instead of missing Taylor Swift, you might die.

No pressure.

I don’t blame West Park for this—it’s clearly a failure at the highest levels—but at noon today, they will be releasing a tranche of vaccines for residents of the northwest, including Weston.

As a model of how else this could be managed, have a look at the Shoppers Drug Mart process. You answer a bunch of questions, tell them where you live, and they call you when it’s your turn. I’m not saying this is the best model—it’s not, because there should have been one central, easy-to-use, multi-lingual, accessible registry. But there isn’t.


Update: their website has crashed.

Meeting about 38-storey building: I’m not convinced.

On December 7, the city hosted a meeting about the proposed 38-storey building at 1821–1831 Weston Road.

Representatives of the developers gave a brief presentation and answered questions about the building, which, if approved, will be the tallest in Weston.

Your correspondent was left unimpressed. The developers were asked why they planned such a tall building. Louis Tinker, from Bousfields, said the province considers areas near transit hubs to be ‘strategic growth areas’ and “the tallest buildings in a particular geographic area… are often found in the closest proximity to the station entrance”.

That may be so, but the representatives did not offer a reason why such a tall building would be good for Weston.

I asked, directly, because other developers, including Castlepoint Numa, Rockport, and Options for Homes, have worked with the community to offer benefits beyond those required by law. They’ve sought more than our permission; they came with offers and ideas.

It didn’t seem that Bousfields had any of those planned. Tinker did say “we haven’t reached that point in the discussion” and that they would consider benefits “if people have ideas that they want to share”—but it appeared to me that he was discussing how to disburse only the benefits the city requires.

The architects did, however, present their new plans for the façade, which they say integrates more aspects of the streetscape and community history.

From the presentation

I’m not an architect, but I think this was a weak effort. The F-shaped elements, for instance, are supposed to hearken back to the CCM factory as viewed from above.

I love Weston, and I love bikes, but I’m over Weston as the home of CCM. We have a lot more to offer than that ancient history (supposing you can find the history in the façade). How about a riparian theme? Or one that nods to our intersection of water, rail, sky, and road? Perhaps a celebration of our present as the home to many new Canadians?

So, in short, no.

If you ask me, it’s too big, and too ugly, with too few benefits to offer.

Micallef calls out cycling in Weston

Would you feel safe cycling on busy Weston Road?

Freelance journalist Sean Micallef has written a column about the sorry state of cycling in Weston. He says, ““Home of the Bicycle” is a slogan found all around Weston, yet it’s one of the worst places in Toronto to ride a bike.” The article is in the Toronto Star behind a paywall but may be accessed at this link in Toronto.com.

In essence Micallef says that cycling is scary in Weston and is an equity issue according to area resident Christina Hoang.

We’ve been saying this for years at Weston Web. It’s nice to see others joining in.

Hassan calls for socialized elder care

Faisal Hassan, our MPP, said this week that he would like to “ban greedy profit driven corporations from the home care and long term care sector so that every dollar goes into better care, and better living.” [sic]

This is a gob-smackingly terrible idea.

I have a friend who thinks that profit is in some way immoral. Something about it—he can never explain what (to my satisfaction at least)—seems dishonourable. I think that Hassan probably feels the same: that making a buck from seniors is a bit underhanded.

But there is nothing—not spiders, eels, or sticky tape—that I would fear more as an old person than someone who isn’t interested in my money. When I retire, I hope to live in comfort, able to buy myself high-speed internet, beer deliveries, and a sweet private room where I can sleep in until 10. This is why I save money now, and I expect my eventual nursing home to earn that money by giving me what I want.

In other words, I expect them to profit. I hope they do.

Would you eat at a non-profit restaurant? Gross. Would you sleep in a non-profit hotel? No, thank you. I like my meals hot and my sheets cold, and when I pay for these things, I get them.

Forbidding profits in nursing homes would be just as bad an idea. At best, government could force providers to follow regulations rather than their own self interest. Residents would get what they want only if the providers were obligated or inclined to provide it. They might hope to get kindly workers, but they could never be sure of that affection by—horrors—paying for it.

We buy warmth and affection everywhere else in the hospitality sector. We should be able to buy it in elder care too.

Location Location Location

27 Brownville Avenue. From Google Maps.

According to legend, these are supposed to be the three most important factors when assessing a home’s value. There’s a home in Mount Dennis at 27 Brownville that is for sale for a hundred dollars shy of $600,000. The much complained about home has been vacant for years and is not safe to live in but the 30 x 92ft. lot is for sale. As an added incentive, the vendors will throw in a demolition permit obtained last year.

The value of the lot lies in the proximity to the new Mount Dennis Station on the Eglinton Crosstown Line or Line 5 as it will be known officially. The station that incorporates the old Kodak recreation building will be a short walk away when it opens in 2022. There is a railway theme to the home as it backs onto the UP Express, GO and CP tracks. That shouldn’t be an issue with good soundproofing. Whether or not the home is worth $600,000 will be decided by the market.

Check the listing here and read about the home’s troubled history here.