Farmers Market Opens for 2020

The 2020 Weston Farmers Market season got under way today in beautiful weather. As is normal for such season openers (usually in May), attendance seemed sparse and there was an added inconvenience for patrons to wait patiently until they were admitted into the market space.  The market, second oldest in the city, is in almost exactly the same place it occupied five years ago although narrower and today had fewer stalls.

For years, traders have insisted that the specially designed market area at the end of John Street was too small and wouldn’t withstand the weight of delivery vehicles. The B.I.A. saved the day with the solution to use the Toronto Parking Authority lot on the other side of the building.

For the last few years the market has used the highly visible UP Express and Weston Baptist Church parking lots. That option is off the table. Unfortunately, the location at the end of John Street is invisible to traffic passing along Weston Road and so it will be a challenge to lure fresh customers to the site. In addition, former anchor tenant and actual farmer, Joe Gaeta has moved elsewhere.

The entrance to the market on John street featuring new signs.
Patrons wait in line to be admitted.
The market cordoned off to allow for physical distancing.
Looking towards John Street, a panorama of the farmers market in almost the same location back in August 2015. Click to enlarge.
The much vaunted and intended home of the farmers market sits empty.

Because the market now occupies the parking spaces intended for use by people visiting the er, market, John Street was in effect one-way thanks to parked vehicles occupying the inbound lane. As patron numbers increase, parking will become a greater issue. Let’s hope that some of the kinks can be worked out quickly. Incidentally, Grandpa Ken’s was there today.

Extra credit: How the Weston Hub was financed here.

An intriguing idea for Weston

The city is studying an intriguing idea that could change the character of Toronto neighbourhoods: gently increasing density in low-density areas.

I think it’s great idea—certainly better than gigantic high-rises on residential streets. City Hall could “loosen up rules on triplexes, allow ‘garden suites’ behind houses, allow development on major streets where it’s not currently allowed and more.”

This works for me. Because of COVID, I recently moved my office into my garage, and that got me thinking about my ex-girlfriend. (Please note that my move to the garage came first! I’m not in the doghouse any more than usual.)

She lived long-term in a coach house on her parent’s medium-sized property. It was great. She had privacy, and her parents had her nearby. I got to thinking that my garage was just about the right footprint for a little place for my growing kids.¹

I’m not the only one to think so: the NY Times, among many others, has been reporting on backyard spaces, doubtless because COVID has focused the minds of white-collar workers on making the most of their living space.

Of course, that has long been a concern of people priced out of home- and yard-ownership in this wildly-expensive city.

From Summerwood
From the NY Times

 Toronto’s  planners suggest looking into allowing more:

  • Duplexes
  • Triplexes
  • Townhouses
  • Small apartment buildings
  • Laneway houses, and
  • Garden suites

Doing so would, they hope, increase housing supply and affordability. The changes would not likely come quickly, though. The planners’ report lays out a two-year warm-up period. It will considered by City Council this week.


¹ My daughter’s response to a free house for her twenties was “No way. I’m moving as far away as possible.” My son’s was more positive, presumably because I wouldn’t be able to monitor his PS6 time.

Locust St development to be considered at community council

A huge proposed development on a small residential street will be considered at Etobicoke York Community Council next week.

Developers are proposing a 35-storey tower with 374 units and parking for 154 cars. The proposal violates planning guidelines and some city bylaws about height, density, size, setbacks, waste handling, and parking (the developers kindly provided council with a draft bylaw amendment).

Tall tower

By my calculation, this will be the tallest building in Mount Dennis.

I think it’s in a terrible location at the end of a narrow street, and will provide little to the community. The Etobicoke York Community Council will meet July 14 to discuss the building.

Notting Hill condo development coming to Eglinton.

Plant World in May last year. From google.com

Remember Plant World, that sprawling 2-hectare garden centre on Eglinton with rather high prices but some spectacular and unusual horticultural specimens? It was operated in various guises by the Delworth-Reeves family from 1889 when, “Cornelius Delworth purchased a parcel of land on Richview Side Road (now Eglinton Avenue) in the outlying farming community of Weston, as an expansion of his downtown nursery operation.”.

Many green-fingered folk were dealt a crushing blow when the last customers were ushered out last September having been sold several years earlier. Yes, you could say their lives were uprooted.

The site from the air (marked in yellow). From google.com. Click to enlarge.

The large site was a tempting one for developers and the owners were probably made an offer too good to resist. In December 2015, purchasers Lanterra Developments submitted a site proposal for 5 condo towers on the site ranging in height from 18 – 33 stories with 1900 apartments and townhomes. The project was grandly named ‘Notting Hill Condominiums’ but don’t expect to see Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts anytime soon.

Lanterra’s 2015 proposal went over like the proverbial lead balloon with the Planning Department and people attending the community consultation in May 2016. Issues such as, density, school capacity, shadow and traffic concerns and compatibility with the neighbourhood (despite already being dotted with 16-20 storey apartment towers) were some of the objections raised. The developer was told by Etobicoke York Community Council to tone it down, sharpen their erasers and try again.

Later in 2016, Lanterra invoked the Ontario Municipal Board’s appeals process (an appointed body that prior to having its wings clipped by Premier Wynne was accused of rubber-stamping developers’ excesses). The developer wanted an OMB intervention claiming that Council was dragging its feet.

Instead of bringing judgement from on high and picking a winner, the newly relevantOMB mediated an agreementreleased in 2018 between all parties and the result was lower overall podium and tower heights, no townhomes, revised setbacks, lower density and a reduction to 1360 apartments. In addition, 25% of the apartments were mandated to be 2 or 3 bedrooms; the developer was to pay $3.8 million in (Section 37) community benefits including up to $800,000 in public art (oh dear lord).

 

According to Urban Toronto, the latest plan submitted in June has the number of dwellings at 1275 but Lanterra’s website says 1320. The OMB has reserved the right to step in again if needed but so far everyone seems happy. Ontario Liberals might call it a Wynne Win.

Artist impression looking south-west towards Eglinton Avenue West. From Lanterradevelopments.com

The mediated agreement was approved by Toronto City Council in 2018.

More details from Urban Torontohere.

View the condo sales pitch here.

Another local cannabis store announced.

This distinctive building at Weston and Eglinton is soon to be the home of another retail cannabis outlet under the Hobo Cannabis Company brand. The company seems to be based in Western Canada. The Weston location is one of fifteen Ontario outlets announced today by the company.

The latest cannabis store will be at 1161 Weston Road. From Google Maps.

I’ve always wondered about the purpose of the glass structure on the front.

What does a good apartment building look like?

If you’re in the market for a condo apartment or just deciding whether a proposed condo will be good for the neighbourhood, here’s a look at the features a good apartment should have in the 2020s.

Weston and Mount Dennis are seeing a flurry of building proposals, most of which involve apartment towers. Weston is in the unenviable position of already having some great examples of what not to build. Hopefully we can learn from these examples and do better.

Apartment interiors:
A one-bedroom apartment should provide a minimum of 500 square feet of year-round living space, a two-bedroom apartment 750 square feet and a three-bedroom above 1200 square feet. A good open-plan layout with ample space and a fully-featured kitchen is the preferred design these days. Bedrooms used to be placed in their own section with a corridor. Nowadays, thanks to space constraints, corridors have gone and bedrooms are often scattered around the living room rather than in one area. Bedrooms should be designed to accommodate student study spaces.
There should be in-apartment storage space for things like a stroller or mobility scooter.
An in-unit washer and dryer is a major convenience.
Balconies can be a great feature of an apartment, allowing access to sunshine, fresh air and perhaps some vegetables in the summer.
Apartments should allow for flexibility so that they can adapt as a family’s needs change.

Noise and odour proofing:
Noise is a big issue in many buildings. Back in the last century I lived in an apartment building where my upstairs neighbour could often be heard using the bathroom – right down to the last squirt. Not great when you’re having dinner with friends. Hardwood / vinyl / laminate floors are preferred to carpeting these days – they’re better from a cleanliness and allergy standpoint. Carpets were once part of the soundproofing system for apartments and now that they’re passé, builders have to put more thought (and money) into keeping noises from escaping. This costs money. Sealing off apartments so that air is contained also helps with odour control. Unfortunately it’s hard to know how good a job builders have done until moving in.

Generous common / amenity space:
Amenity spaces help create a community inside a building by providing areas where people can meet and interact.

  • Lobbies that promote interaction
  • A play area for children
  • Day care facilities
  • Fitness centre / Yoga studio / Library / meeting room
  • Swimming pool / sauna
  • Storage
  • Ample parking for deliveries
  • Lockers where delivery people can leave packages for residents.
  • Large item storage lockers.
  • Secure / gated access
  • Pet friendly with accommodation for dog toilet needs to ease the burden on local parks.
  • Outdoor common space with wifi.

Click to enlarge. From https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2017/pg/bgrd/backgroundfile-103920.pdf

Parking:
Secure, covered and adequate vehicle / bicycle parking is a big deal. Parking is expensive for developers as the only way to provide it to dig. The more parking the more digging. Developers like to skimp on parking claiming there is less demand for it.  Weston is a long way from being a car-free community. Unlike downtown Toronto, we can’t walk and cycle everywhere for our needs. We don’t even have any decent bike lanes inn Weston. There should be one parking space per apartment otherwise the parking problem just spills out into the neighbourhood. Parking spaces can always be adapted for other uses once transit becomes adequate and the neighbourhood provides a better variety of retail and cultural experiences. Charging stations for e-vehicles should be provided.

Security.
Security costs money and having someone monitor residents and visitors is expensive but necessary for peace of mind.

Energy efficiency:
The cost of energy is likely to rise in the future. Keeping costs down is important along with eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Electrically powered heat pumps are one of the best and most energy-efficient ways to heat and cool an apartment. More costly to install, they keep resident’s fuel expenses low and use less energy.  A 4-pipe heat pump system can respond quickly to daily and seasonal changes and will allow heating and cooling simultaneously in the various parts of the building (some buildings can have only air-conditioning or heating at any one time and the switch-over date is a contentious one).

Bottom line:
We can build bare-bones and quick profit dwellings that don’t adapt well to future needs or we can build communities where people can thrive.

It’s up to us and city planners to hold developers to account so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Toronto has written a set of draft urban design guidelines that considers the needs of children and families growing up in an apartment community. They are well worth a read.

Weston Development (29 Storeys)

At the Community Meeting about the proposal for the development at the Greenland Farms site (Weston and Little Ave.), the developer’s agent tried to justify the immense building on the basis of the province’s plans to increase development around ‘Major Transit Stations’.  Weston GO station (as long as we keep our GO trains) is such a Major Transit Station.  The new provincial plans (now called ‘A Place to Grow’) require a planned density of 150 persons and jobs per hectare (1/100 of a square kilometre) around GO Stations.  From the city of Toronto, this definition:

So, what does this mean for Weston?  First, the 500 metre radius looks like this.

The Greenland Farms development will clearly be within that circle which extends north to almost King, south to part of Sykes, east along Lawrence to Pine, and west to just into Etobicoke.

But the real question is, how much density do we need to achieve the provincial plan?  Do we really need to permit several 29 and 36 storey towers?

The answer can be found in the 2016 Census.  Here is a map of the west part of Toronto with densities in different colours – dark blue being the densest.

The Census data is in persons per square kilometre.  Weston is already the densest part of the west end, with the possible exception of part of Dixon Road.  And the densities of the areas closest to the proposed development are already substantially more than 150 persons per hectare, not counting any jobs which may exist.

By small census areas, here are the actual densities.

35204426 – West side of Weston Road, Little to St. Phillips – Density 153.3 persons per hectare

35204415 – East side of Weston Road, King to John to tracks – Density 181.73 persons per hectare

35204414 – North side of Lawrence to John St, Little to tracks – Density 177.57 persons per hectare

35204413 – South side of Lawrence, Hickory Tree to Weston Rd. – Density 292.12 persons per hectare

35204412 – South side of Lawrence, Weston to Pine and south to Denison – Density 69.19 persons per hectare

35204411 – West side of Weston Rd., Bellevue to Wright – Density 133.72 persons per hectare.

The 2016 census was before the building at 22 John was occupied.  So the density is already greater.  And the count does not include jobs, which takes the count even higher.

Weston is already plenty dense enough.  Developers cannot point to the provincial growth plan and claim a right to make it denser.  Even the legally allowed 8 storey maximum for development on Weston Road would significantly increase the density.

The city can and should say no to any more monstrous buildings in Weston. And defend such decision at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (successor to the OMB) should the developers appeal.  Developers who thought we’d be an easy mark can think again.