Two long reads worth your time

A couple of long reads worth your time this weekend:

John Michael McGrath weighs in on the ugly-looking process behind the province’s hydrogen-powered GO train push, which could replace the well-developed and reasonable plans for electrification:

Metrolinx is asking for private companies to bid to make something that doesn’t currently exist. The costs are a big question mark. So is the performance. One of the reasons the government was going to go with overhead wires was that electric trains can accelerate faster than their diesel counterparts, allowing a railway to run more vehicles in and out of stations, safely. That means more frequent train service for riders. Can Metrolinx find a hydrogen train vendor that can meet those specs while delivering the number of trains needed by the 2025 deadline?


The Globe’s Alex Bozikovic covers what houses we should be keeping in Toronto, and the broken-down system of heritage evaluation. It’s a mess, and one we struggle with in Weston.

The areas of the city that are facing the most development pressure – and where planning is most open to development – is in and around the downtown core, which is also the area richest in built heritage.

“We wind up asking, What do we want to keep?” Ms. MacDonald says. “And the larger question, a very different question, is, what matters to people? What are the landmarks for different faith communities, for different waves of immigration? Not everyone in Toronto has the same history. We believe that the city’s architectural heritage represents community and social value as well.”

More on 135 John

The Toronto Star has picked up the story of the lot division at 135 John.

Alino Lopes thought the lot he bought in Weston could be a place for him and his daughter to live side by side.

Instead, they’re finding the aging house they’re hoping to tear down and replace with two new ones is becoming the centre of a conflict between those who want to preserve the neighbourhood’s eclectic character, and provincial plans that favour intensification.

From The Toronto Star

Lot division on John

The owners of 135 John have asked the city for permission to sever the property and build two townhomes on the site. If approved, the new homes may be a bit like a bear on a bike: too large, and out of character. (They will need exemption from city bylaws governing lot size and greenery).

What say you, Westonians: what room is there for densification in Weston?

Thanks to J for the tip.

Will Weston become a food desert?

 

The Greenland Food Market property has been sold and the business was recently put up for sale. What will become of food shopping in the walkable areas of Weston? The GF supermarket building is large – it once housed a Loblaws and has an excellent selection of produce and ethnic foods and spices. It serves hundreds of people within walking distance. The next nearest supermarket is the Loblaws Superstore at Weston and the 401 which is a considerable way when carrying groceries. The term ‘food desert‘ has been applied to areas in the U.S. where there is a lack of a healthy variety and selection of food. Weston may be in grave danger of becoming a food desert when Greenland Farm closes.

Greenland Farms produce section (file).

The GF site owner and developer has shown some attractive artist renderings indicating that a food retailer may be occupying the ground floor of the proposed high-rise. The bottom line is that the attractive drawings are done purely to attract support for the project. The actual building may be completely different. Without a legal requirement, the developer has neither wish nor obligation to specify the businesses that may lease space in their building.

Let’s hope that our councillor is working to ensure that vibrant and varied food sources are available in the densely populated parts of Weston and Mount Dennis.

Developer plans for 1705 Weston

A developer has announced that it has plans for the lot just south of the UP Express station, at 1705 Weston Road.  There are few details on Oldstonehenge’s website, but they plan “mixed-use development” and “affordable rental housing and easy access commuting done the right way”.

So far, so good.

Oldstonehenge’s description of Weston, however, is quite tone-deaf.

 An ethnic patchwork of heritage homes, older housing stock and outdated high-rise apartment complexes makes this an undervalued node in the city. The recent addition of the Weston Station on the GO Line and nearby UP (Union Pearson) Airport Express really adds the potential for its gentrification.

Start with the facts. The GO station has been around since the dawn of time; only the UPX is new.

But I really don’t like the judgment.  “Older housing stock” is an odd and mechanical way to describe “homes”, and “outdated rental properties” is a pejorative for “affordable apartments”.

An “ethnic patchwork of heritage homes” doesn’t “make this [neighbourhood] undervalued”. I, for one, quite like our heritage homes. And “gentrification” is usually used sneeringly, because it means  “conforming to a middle-class taste.”

I imagine Oldstonehenge was trying to say, “We think we’ll be able to add something new to this old, diverse, and affordable neighbourhood. We think you’ll really like living here, and the commute downtown is really easy.”

At least that is what I hope they mean.

Why we must have bad things

After the second fire at the derelict model home at Weston and Dora Spencer, people asked—rightly—how this could happen. Why was a building allowed to sit vacant for years, and how could it have burned twice, at great expense and considerable danger to the fine women and men who protect us?

The answer will not surprise you: the city is powerless. According to Frances Nunziata’s office, “the City cannot order that a building be demolished just because it has sat vacant for a long period of time”, but can only ask that it remains boarded up.

The owners wanted to keep the blue monstrosity as “the construction office for a development they have planned at 2 Buttonwood Street”— though I, for one, would certainly not have bought a home from someone who builds or cares for buildings quite like that.

If your standards are low, there is good news: what’s left of the building will be demolished by the end of the week, and the site should now be secured. 

While the building is gone, the problem remains: there are at least two other derelict and dangerous buildings on Weston Road that have sat vacant for years—indeed more than a decade: the homes near 2254 Weston.

Readers, submit your own photos of potential firetraps.

 

1288 Weston may be demolished

The owner of 1288 Weston Road is asking the city for permission to demolish a house and convert the space into a parking lot to serve the growing medical centre next door. The pink-clad building is certainly no beauty.

City staff recommend that the Etobicoke York Community Council either:

  • Refuse the application, because no building plan has been filed
  • Approve the application and ask for a beautification agreement, or
  • Cut the guy a break and let him demolish his building without a beautification agreement.

The MDCA approves of the plan to build a parking lot, according to city staff.