Christmas Tradition in Weston

For 26 years now, 5 families in Weston have had a tradition of a ‘walk around dinner’.  The families are neighbours, living within a few paces of one another. In early December, each family prepares one course: Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Main and Dessert.  Then, starting in the early evening, the adults all walk to the home serving the Appetizers, and spend an hour or so over that course, talking and catching up.  The couple serving the soup walks to their house to finish the prep, and a few minutes later everyone else moves to the soup course. The conversations continue. And so on through the evening, until finally, dessert.  There’s always some Christmas music in the background, and Christmas decorations are mostly up.

Because each couple only prepares one course, it is usually something special.  This year’s menu featured shrimp, seafood, brie and cranberry tarts, squash and pear soup, radicchio salad, spicy and mild chicken wings, a fruit pavlova, butter and mince tarts and a cheese board.

In the beginning, the children were all fed and looked after by each other in the basement of one of the houses over a movie or games while their parents walked from course to course.  As the night wore on, various ages of kids fell asleep and had to be moved home at the end of the evening.  As the years went by, the kids grew up, moved out and had families of their own.

Though the tradition continues, the conversations change.  Early on, it was home renovations, or children’s schoolwork, or decorating the house for Christmas.  As the couples age, it becomes catching up on children and grandchildren, with the requisite photos shown around.  The more recent conversations tend to revolve around bodily ailments, who’s back is acting up, who just went for an MRI, who had cataract replacements.

Alcohol is served with each course, though the quantities have diminished greatly over the years. But being a walk around event, no one needs to be a designated driver. And the timing changes, too.  What used to start at 7 and go until 2 am, now starts at 6 and the yawning starts at 1030.  All are in bed by 11.

Arranging the date can be laborious.  One of the participants keeps track of who serves what course over time, so there isn’t a repeat, and sends out the reminder in November.  Invariably, someone has a conflict, so emails and phone calls go back and forth until a date is set.

One of the couples moved away from Weston, but comes back with food in tow, just for this event each year.  It is a lovely tradition.

Nunziata’s office is hiring

A week after City Hall doubled its office budgets (after halving the number of councillors), Frances Nunziata’s office has posted a job.

Nunziata is looking for an Administrative and Communications Assistant, who will be managing community events, the councillor’s calendar, and her social media accounts.

The salary is between at $40 and $60,000 for a job that is, I’m am certain, quite intense.

TTC Tokens and Tickets to be eliminated – Public Meeting set.

TTC and Presto are holding a public meeting to advise of the upcoming changes to the TTC fares as a result of the elimination of tokens and tickets and fare collectors at subway stations.

PRESTO/ TTC Town Hall

December 11, 6:00-7:30pm

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203

Here’s what we know (or think we know) so far.

By the end of 2018, TTC Metropasses will no longer be available.  You will need to purchase a Presto Card, and load it with a Metropass.  TTC and Presto are still working out details of whether or how to offer the VIP program (bulk purchase by employers) but for now it has ended.

Sometime in 2019, Presto and the city plan to eliminate the token and tickets.  Currently tokens are 3 for $9 and Student/Senior tickets are $10.25 for a book of 5 tickets.  When these are eliminated the only single fare ticket will cost $3.25 per ticket.  Fare collectors will be eliminated at subway stations.  Patrons will have to deposit $3.25 in a vending machine for a full-fare ticket, regardless of whether they are senior or student.  It is unclear whether a patron will be able to deposit $2.10 (the cash student and senior fare) in a farebox on a bus or streetcar.  As of this writing it appears the day pass, the family pass, and the convention pass will be eliminated.  In addition, full-fare tickets purchased at vending machines will have an expiry date (60 days?), after which they will be a useless piece of paper with a chip inside.

Presto card holders will continue to get the discounted fares.  $3.00 for adults, $2.05 for seniors and students.  But you must pay $6 (non refundable) for the presto card and then keep it loaded, with a minimum load of $10.

Metrolinx does have plans for distribution of tickets to social service agencies, schools etc.  It is unclear whether these will be full-fare $3.25 tickets, or reduced fare.  It is also unclear how the expiry date will be dealt with.

Fare Media Sellers

Currently TTC has some 1200 places where you can buy tickets, tokens, metropasses and day passes.

In Weston and Mount Dennis and vicinity there are 37 places to buy transit fares.

Jumbo Save 1917 Weston Rd. M9N1W7
Shoppers Drug Mart 1995 Weston Rd. M9N1X2
Min-A-Mart 2087 Weston Rd. M9N1X7
Sinclair Variety. 2155 Weston Rd. M9N1X8
Park’s Supermarket 2189 Weston Rd. M9N1X9
Shoppers Drug Mart #869 1533 Jane St. M9N2R2
T & A Lucky Bargain Way 1691 Jane St. M9N2S3
George’s Food Store 1834 Jane St. M9N2T4
Bargain Club. 3685 Keele St. M9N3J8
Carmenza Gift & Video 1883 Jane St. M9N3S7
Golden Star Variety. 1655 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1H7
Silverthorn Variety. 1734 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1J3
Peter Pan K Convenience 1832 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1J8
Metro #719 2155 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1K5
Rocky Convenience 2466 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1L3
Grand Hoo International Corp 128 Pritchard Ave. M6N1T3
Saba Foods 251 Woolner Ave. M6N1Y8
Shoppers Drug Mart #867 620 Keele St. M6N3E2
Kenneth Variety 855 Jane St. M6N4C4
Janedale Pharmacy. 903 Jane St. M6N4C6
Mac’s #66099 1349 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1A4
Metro #750 1411 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1A4
Lawrence Park Convenience 1577 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1C3
C- Mart 2402 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1S6
Grace Lottery Centre 2330 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1S6
Variety & Video 2609 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1T3
York Variety. 2669 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1T8
Zac’s Convenience 1977 Keele St. M6M3Y2
Top’s Variety 2264 Keele St. M6M3Y9
Market-Tino 2394 Keele St. M6M4A5
Main Drug Mart. 510 Trethewey Dr. M6M4C2
A & M Lifestyle Variety 1233 Weston Rd. M6M4P7
October Jack’s Convenience 1339 Weston Rd. M6M4R6
T & K Variety 1385 Weston Rd. M6M4S1
7-Eleven Food Stores (24414). 1390 Weston Rd M6M4S2
Rogers Supermarket. 419 Rogers Rd. M6M4Z8
Family Food Mart 2468 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M5E2

Metrolinx and Presto have signed an exclusive deal with Shoppers Drug Mart (Loblaw Inc) to be the only reseller of TTC media.  Not all Shoppers will have presto reloading machines.

As of this writing they have not yet advised the other outlets that they will be losing the franchise.

After the token is eliminated, you will have to travel to one of

Shoppers Drug Mart 1995 Weston Rd. M9N1X2 8am-midnight
Shoppers Drug Mart #869 1533 Jane St. M9N2R2 9am-9pm
Shoppers Drug Mart #867 620 Keele St. M6N3E2 9am-10pm

It is unclear whether these outlets will be able to sell a single TTC fare, as they currently only have presto card reload machines.
Although GO Weston station has a counter open weekdays and fare vending machines, they are not set up to sell TTC fares.  You can reload presto cards there.

If you have questions, come to the public meeting.

PRESTO/ TTC Town Hall

December 11, 6:00-7:30pm

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203

This is what gentrification really is – Part 2

Tenants Stand Up to Greedy Landlords

In my first piece about gentrification, I gave an overview of what it is and what it looks like. Thank you to Adam for responding to my piece, but I have to respectfully point out that what he described, a developing York South-Weston without displacement, is not gentrification.

Adam is right, there are ways to build up York South-Weston and make it a more safe, just and equitable community without displacing marginalized residents, but I hate to break it to everyone: that is not gentrification. But what is currently happening to York South-Weston is gentrification.

Let me reiterate, gentrification is market pressures pushing out low-income and often racially marginalized communities from a community to populate it with more affluent and often white populations. To put it simply, this is caused by rising rents, developments that don’t address the needs of the community, and big-box stores replacing mom-and-pop shops. Think of gentrification as displacement.

Gentrification is a deeply political process that doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why some of us, especially some of us who may be fortunate enough to own a home, or drive a car, or shop at Loblaws, may not feel the effects of it in our day-to-day lives. But the majority of York South-Weston does. Life is becoming more and more unaffordable for locals while inequality and development are on the rise. This is gentrification.

Over the past few months, I’ve been witness to tenants rising up against unjustified rent increases, abusive landlords and a stark lack of services.

Before I get into what’s happening in apartment buildings across York South-Weston, it’s important to note that rents always go up by 1.8% regardless of whether any improvements have been made to the building, even when the property taxes of the building are lowered, which is the case for most of the large rental buildings in York South-Weston. Tenants pay the biggest burden of property taxes, while landlords profit from lower taxes.

In 33 King, a high-rise apartment building two blocks north of the Union-Pearson Express, tenants deal with mold in their units, repairs not being dealt with, and unexpected water stoppages that are caused by the development of 22 John Street, which is directly beside 33 King. 33 King is fighting back against a 4.8% rent increase. This is a building where the last increase they faced was in 2014 and was just 0.7% above the guideline. The landlord justifies the 4.8% rent increase with cosmetic “repairs” to the building: renovating the parking garage, putting new lights in the lobby, etcetera.

However, tenants know the increase is because of the 22 John Street development – a rental building that will have zero affordable units – to accommodate its parking needs.

22 John is not only offloading the cost of renovating its parking garage for its future luxury apartments (rents are up to $1,850 for a bachelor unit, $2,400 for a two-bedroom, and no three-bedrooms) onto the low-income tenants next door at 33 King, but the building won’t be controlled by rent control thanks to new legislation put forward by our Premier that erases rent control. So not only are there no affordable units in the building, the rents will likely see drastic increases from year to year ensuring that the average York South-Westonite will never be able to live there.

In the “Twin Towers”, 1765 and 1775 Weston Road, right beside the Union-Pearson Express stop, units are now being renovated and re-rented for upwards of $1,200/month. These are practices called “reno-victing”.

At the Country Club Towers, 2460 Weston Road, tenants are paying $1,300/month for a 2-bedroom unit and $1,500 for a 3-bedroom unit. To put that into perspective, the maximum Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rent for a 3-person household is $803 per month and there is a 9+ year waiting list for social housing.

In 2180 and 2190 Weston Road, located at Weston and Church, tenants are also dealing with very high above-guideline-increases. Once again, the landlord’s justification is renovations to the parking garage, which tenants have discovered is being rented out to a local car dealership. Since the renovation, tenants have been restricted from using the garage and lost storage space that they used to be able to rent.

The injustices happening in these buildings paint a stark picture of the housing crisis happening across York South-Weston and across the city.

So, why are people being priced-out and displaced here, in York South-Weston, a community deemed to be one of the last affordable communities in Toronto? I say: a country-wide housing crisis, the austerity of all three levels of government – a failure to invest in and act on affordable housing (social, co-op, inclusionary zoning) – unaffordable developments that don’t address the pressing needs of the community, and the fact that York South-Weston is on the brink of becoming a transit-hub.

So next time you go to a development meeting in our community and hear developers say something like, “We hope this development attracts a certain type of person to the community,” think about what that means and who they are actively working to push out, to price out, to displace, and to gentrify.

If we want to build a York South-Weston that works for everyone – one that is safe, accessible and affordable – it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure it stays affordable, to work to tackle the root causes of poverty. The problem is not the people our society allows to live in poverty; the problem is a system that pits us against each other, benefits landlords and developers, and traps people in the cycle of poverty. Housing is a human right.

In my next piece, I will explore the grand schemes developers have for York South-Weston.