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.

Twenty-Nine Storeys and 240 Metres.

At the Jan 8 Community Council meeting, councilors accepted the report of the city planning department regarding the proposed 29 storey twin-tower development at Weston and Little Ave.(the Greenland Farms site). The report essentially said the plans were too much for the current zoning and official plan, but planning will work with the developer on amending the plans. Councillor Nunziata amended the motion to add that another community meeting should be held prior to any new reports about this development being given to the Community Council, with notices to land owners and residents within 240 metres of the development, at the expense of the developer.
Two Hundred and Forty Metres is not very far. It gets south to Lawrence, east to the train tracks, west to the park, and north to King St. No notices to old Weston, nor to the apartment dwellers at the twin towers, nor 5 Bellevue, nor 29 South Station. The councilor did reserve the right to expand the notice boundary.

City responds to the Weston Asset Management proposal.

After a public consultation, Toronto’s Planning Department has issued a preliminary report covering some of the issues regarding a mammoth development proposed for ‘downtown’ Weston. The site covers 1956, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984 and 1986 Weston Road and 1 Little Avenue. It covers several lots along the south side of Weston Road stretching from Little Avenue to the old Greenland Farms parking lot with a back access from Lawrence.

The report basically says that the proposal is deeply flawed.

There are only two recommendations from the report – one covers mailing costs for notifying members of the public and the other states, “Staff continue to work with the applicant to address the issues identified in this report and any additional issues that may be identified through the continuing review of the application, agency comments and the community consultation process.”

OK then, let’s get into the issues that have to be discussed (in no particular order).

Project Size and scale:
From the report,

“The proposed scale of development would result in a bulky, overwhelming presence which would not fit in with the surrounding area nor provide adequate transition in height to the surrounding properties, including: the existing 1 to 2-storey mixed use buildings fronting Weston Road, the existing taller buildings along Weston Road to the east, the 2-storey building directly adjacent to the south, and the rest of the Weston Phase 1 HCD and Neighbourhoods designated lands to the south and west. In its current form, the proposal fails to address the local and planned context in which it is situated.”It doesn’t get plainer than this. Staff are suggesting that the project be revised to a mid-rise building

Conformity to the Official Plan:
The location is a mixed use area and also an ‘avenue’. These are subject to lower density requirements but each case is different. Weston’s avenue hasn’t been studied yet but tall buildings are generally more appropriate downtown than along an avenue. A tall building is defined as being higher than the width of the street which is 27 m (equivalent to 8 storeys) at this location.

Breaching the Weston Plan:
Yes Virginia, there are guidelines for Weston. To read them is to wonder what happened to the dreams for the area and how they have been so downgraded and ignored for years. This should be one of the most important jobs for Councillor Nunziata – outlining the Weston guidelines to developers before they submit outrageous proposals like this. In fairness, because of interest in the project Ms Nunziata has asked the developer to expand the notification area – 5660 notices were mailed out for the last meeting.

Anyway, the Weston guidelines state that building heights along Weston Road should not exceed 8 storeys with podiums of no more than 3 stories – all nicely stepped.

Apart from the outrageous height of the proposed buildings the report was critical of cantilevering of the towers (overhang) which goes against a step-like terracing of building levels.

The report suggests that some stores on the site may be pre-confederation which may complicate matters. They also state that heritage buildings should be retained – not just their frontages. There may also be at least six residences already existing on the site.

Section 37
Section 37 is a controversial part of the Ontario Planning Act that allows developers to pay money to the City in exchange for turning a blind eye to poor design or crappy architecture. To quote from the city’s rules, “Good architecture and good design are expected of all developments, as a matter of course, and are not eligible (for) Section 37 benefits.” There is no set amount or formula – (it must be negotiated between  the developer, the City and the local councillor).  The money must pay for a community benefit. It can’t be used to upgrade sewers (for example) – this would have to be done through development charges. Read the Section 37 guidelines here.

Section 37 money at work in Mount Dennis (Nychtophilia). From Fiveprime.

Here’s what the city suggests be done with the Section 37 monies generated from this development:

  • Funding contributions towards Falstaff Community Centre, and/or the new large multi-purpose Central Etobicoke Community Recreation Centre as identified by the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan and Implementation Strategy 2019-2038;
  • Funding contributions towards the revitalization of the Weston Library Branch and/or Richview Library Branch;
  • Funding contributions for new child care facilities and/or capital improvements to existing child care facilities; and/or
  • Secure a minimum of 465 m2 of flexible multi-purpose community agency space in an accessible and visible location at the ground floor of the proposed development in accordance with the City’s Community Space Tenancy policy.

Comment: Neither the Falstaff Community Centre between Jane and Keele nor the (unbuilt) Central Etobicoke Community Recreeation Centre are in Weston and have very little connection to our community. It would certainly suit Councillor Nunziata to spend the money at Falstaff as she is keen to endear herself to her new constituents with a bit of largesse.  Falstaff and anywhere outside the immediate Weston neighbourhood should be taken off the Section 37 table.

If Section 37 money is used to acquire community space in the new building, some clarity would be needed on the length of the lease and which costs would be covered?

It would be preferred if the project generates zero Section 37 money.

Shadows generated by the project:
The report asks that further studies be done because of the massive shadows that this project will generate with potential for shading Little Avenue Park and the project’s outdoor recreation area. Shadow studies during the winter months will be prepared and studied.

Wind Studies:
These have shown that uncomfortable conditions would be created, particularly on their own recreation space – which is too high up for the planners’ liking. Adjacent buildings on Lawrence would be negatively affected too.

Other issues:
Although the building is to be a condo; planning staff would like to see some affordable rental apartments in there too.

The proposed amenity space is undersized and should be increased.

Weston Road will need to be widened to provide the required 27m right of way.

On-site dog amenities with proper disposal facilities such as dog relief stations would be needed to alleviate the extra pressure on neighbourhood parks.

From Pinterest.

The applicant would also be required to satisfy the parkland dedication requirement through cash-in-lieu. This is because the developer has proposed to occupy all the space with building or paving.

Not mentioned in the report is the fact that the current right of way linking Weston Road to Lawrence Avenue via the Greenland Farms parking lot will be closed off by the development. This has been enjoyed for years.

Finally:
Without the recent strong negative response from the community, this project may have proceeded with minimal changes.

Let’s hope the developer responds with something reasonable.

The year in review.

As the year comes to a close, it’s probably a good moment to look back at some of the events and topics that we dealt with in 2019.

TORONTO POLICE:
Toronto Police have had a lot to be embarrassed about this year. It emerged that traffic enforcement has been virtually non-existent since 2013. This could explain why traffic deaths have spiked upwards in recent years. Many people have died unnecessarily since that time. If you ever wonder why there are more entitled idiots on the road, the lack of police presence and enforcement is the reason.

From Toronto Star.

The public is often puzzled by the actions of police. Police have told us that they’re understaffed and sometimes there’s only a handful of cops available for the whole of 12 Division. After a recent and tragic murder at 1765 Weston, 15 cruisers were reported to have appeared but cops are seemingly unavailable for anything less serious. Was every attending officer at that crime scene really doing something useful?

The police also need to stop the knee-jerk reactions when pressure to act is applied. When undesired behaviour reaches intolerant levels, policing needs to change. Chief Saunders seems to think a temporary fix with a fancy title will solve the problem. The Chief needs to understand that shootings and car deaths aren’t going to disappear once temporary programs are disbanded. We need permanent solutions that continue to work. A few extra officers on overtime won’t cut it.

Toronto’s ‘Year Of The Gun’ in 2005 had 262 shootings and 367 victims. So far in 2019, Toronto has experienced 484 shootings involving 764 victims. In 12 Division we had 45 shootings and 77 victims.

Shootings by year 2004-2018. From Toronto Police.

On an even less cheerful note, this year in Toronto, you are almost as likely to be killed by a car as by a gun although not so in 12 Division with one pedestrian death.

MAYOR TORY
It took until 2019 for the Mayor to understand that low taxes and service reductions result in a shabby and crime-ridden city. This is widely known so  why the Mayor thought Toronto would be different is anyone’s guess. Since becoming Mayor in 2014, he has followed many of the policies and ideas of his predecessor Rob Ford. During the 2018 election he ridiculed candidates whose platform suggested inflation-busting property tax increases. Now, after promising tax increases at or below the level of inflation he has gained approval from Council for a property tax ‘levy’ that will add to the City’s building fund.

Naturally, the mayor sets the tone for Council and the tone has shifted to the left.

COUNCILLOR NUNZIATA
The councillor has made some efforts to modify her stances on some issues and has moved in tandem with the Mayor’s come to Jesus moment. She pushed for and got bike lanes on Scarlett Road. She still seems unable to tell developers to tone down excessive heights of apartments and presided over continued flooding in Ward 5 along with not seeming to care about a developer putting a slaughterhouse on flood-plain land.

WESTON BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREA
Question: How do you bring a flea market to Weston?
Answer: Start with a farmers market and work your way down from there.

Late in the season, the BIA abruptly booted Joe Gaeta from the Weston Farmers Market (2nd oldest in Toronto) a week before City inspectors found that it didn’t have enough produce sellers to qualify as a true FM. It is now officially a flea market. On  the plus side, the inadequate space at the new Hub location will no longer be such a big deal.

In more positive news, Weston’s Buskerfest and the Weston Santa Claus Parade are popular and continue to strengthen.

People overestimate what can be achieved when a group of retailers get together and try to attract customers to an area. On the other hand, in spite of being partially funded by property taxes, they don’t allow the public to attend their meetings. They also seem to be overly-influenced by Councillor Nunziata who tends to dominate proceedings.

VISION ZERO 2.0
This Toronto Council initiative to prevent traffic deaths has been derisively known as Zero Vision since it produced no results in its first year. Politicians are now beginning to understand that ineptitude in this area costs lives and dozens of people have died unnecessarily in recent years. Despite the urgency to improve safety for pedestrians, Council is moving with glacial speed having only recently made the connection between traffic speed and safety. Speed limits are being lowered in some places, however, the city is supplying only two speed cameras per ward (fines won’t start until they’ve been in place for 3 months – warnings will be issued until then).

Ward 5’s cameras will be at Bicknell Ave. between Juliet Cres. and Avon Dr.; Brookhaven Dr. between Fox Point and Nordale Cres.

Read more here.

DEVELOPERS
Developers continue to propose to put the tallest, ugliest, and cheapest built  structures in the most prominent areas in spite of heritage or building guidelines. This year we lost Greenland Farms whose land may be part of a huge development.

From The Guardian.

In exchange for devastating a neighbourhood, pitiful amounts of Section 37 money are given to local councillors to spend locally. Sadly the money isn’t always spent locally or appropriately and is instead used as a pseudo re-election fund.

Other huge projects are being planned for Weston. More on that in upcoming articles.

What do we want?

Last week, I made a case that we should have a commercial relationship with all the new builders in Weston. They want to break the planning guidelines. I think they should pay to do so.

I also asked how you thought the (as-yet-imaginary) money should be spent. 59 people responded. Thank you! Here are the results. (They don’t add up to 59 because people could vote for more than one option.)

Many people noted that the new-new Farmers’ Market isn’t looking good and asked for a new-new-new one. That wasn’t the most popular option though: the most people voted for a YMCA-style space. I too think that would be just fantastic. Tied for third were a recreation space for young people and a scholarship fund. Damned fine ideas, if I do say so myself.

Peering into the data, I think we could safely say that a YMCA-style space would be just super, because it could provide all of the top options, as well as a few of the less popular ones:

  • Programming for youth
  • A stuff-bank for tools, food, clothing, and computers
  • Another, closer, and perhaps less popular gym
  • Perhaps even a community daycare, which we have been missing for six years

 

 

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.

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.