There is an old saying that perception is everything. There is a widespread set of beliefs about our corner of Toronto. Let’s see where perception meets reality. Readers are invited to share their own observations on these topics.
Myth #1: Weston / Mount Dennis is a high crime area
People are notoriously poor at assessing personal risk. When a murder occurs such as the recent stabbing in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot, it (quite naturally) shakes up the community. Because we know the area well and may have at some time walked through that parking lot, it’s only human to imagine that we’re personally at risk from such seemingly unpredictable occurrences.
How safe are we? The answer is very safe. Killings are rarely random and most murder victims have some kind of relationship with their killer. Is the average person at risk of being murdered in Weston? To put it simply, no. Riding in a car, crossing the road or climbing a ladder exposes us to far more risk of death or injury.
An intelligent reaction to such tragic deaths is important. The involvement of police and politicians working with residents in finding solutions to criminal behaviour is essential. If there is a shortage of police on duty, that should be changed – although if 12 Division can only muster seven officers and two traffic officers during one shift (it would be nice to know the time of day), clearly either the police are understaffed or those who do the staffing feel that crime levels warrant such small numbers.
In 2011 we learned that there is considerable overlap in police shifts suggesting that there is still room to maximize police resources.
The press tends to sensationalize criminal behaviour and treat it in isolation rather than look for underlying causes and trends. There is a theory that since we have so many press outlets in Toronto, crime is emphasized more and perceptions are distorted. As a suburb of Canada’s largest city (and the third largest in North America) we do have crime. Incidentally, Weston’s crime rate is no higher than other areas of Toronto which is by the way, the safest major city in North America. When I talk to American friends, they are always astonished that our murder rate is so low. Toronto’s annual murder rate would be a considered a bad month in comparably-sized Chicago.
Myth #2: Weston / Mount Dennis is out in the boonies.
If a short commute to a job downtown or at Pearson Airport is a good thing, Weston is better off than many inner suburbs. It’s only 14 minutes to downtown by UP Express or GO train and a combination TTC/GO-UPX fare is now $1.50 cheaper. Pearson Airport and Bloor Stations are an even quicker commute. Several intersecting bus routes already make Weston a transit hub and the TTC is looking at providing more express buses.
If you like to take in a professional sports game, have a downtown night out or visit the second largest theatre district in North America, UPX trains will take you there and back quickly at all hours.
The new Eglinton Crosstown will open in 2021 providing welcome rapid access to mid-town places like Yonge and Eglinton from Weston GO / UPX Station and the beautiful new Mount Dennis Station. Contrary to rumours, Weston Station is not likely to close once the Eglinton Crosstown opens as it’s far too valuable a piece of infrastructure and will form a stop on any new commuter line.
Although Toronto’s roads are increasingly blocked, we have rapid access to highways 401, 409, 400 and 427.
Myth #3: Weston / Mount Dennis is all apartment towers / there’s nowhere decent to live.
Architecturally, Weston Village, much dating from the early 20th Century, has streets full of residential gems that have somehow survived demolition. Many have been restored to their former splendour along quiet leafy avenues.
Nevertheless, we do have more than our fair share of awful apartment buildings. They were put up decades ago by unscrupulous developers with a wink and a nod from planners and politicians. Are those days over? Planning guidelines written to preserve the character of Weston and Mount Dennis are routinely ignored. We’ll see what happens once the developer friendly Ontario Municipal Board loses its grip on the building process.
Dilapidated rental units close to our newer transit options will find it in their own interest to renovate and improve their properties. That process is well under way.
Hopefully our current politicians along with a revamped approval process will oversee a better quality of new development than in the past.
Myth #4: There’s no natural beauty in Weston / Mount Dennis.
There are few suburbs in Toronto where you can walk to such a variety of beautiful wide open parkland as we have here. Our riverside parks stretching along the Humber are a wildlife and landscape photographer’s dream. There are likewise few places in any city where you can regularly see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, mink and beaver to name but a few. Birds are also plentiful ranging from red-tailed hawks, owls and woodpeckers to chickadees and tiny humming birds in summer.
Fishing for Atlantic salmon or Lake Ontario trout is a twice annual activity that would cost a small fortune in other countries. Our parks are able to accommodate large family picnics and there are also places for quiet contemplation. Although parkland along the Humber could still use better accessibility (ignored by Council for more than a decade now), there are parts of Weston where there is nothing but nature.
Myth #5: There’s nowhere to eat – restaurants and pubs.
We have many eating places in Weston and while some are very successful, sadly others aren’t patronized as well as they might be. Toronto is known for its huge variety of ethnic restaurants but some local eateries are sadly unpatronized or denied licenses because of vocal nimby groups. On the positive side, successes are growing; one only needs to look at the new P&M, Zeal Burger, Perfect Blend and SuperCoffee to see evidence of people supporting food outlets that have invested in our community. Sadly, the hoops that these new businesses have to jump through are many. It would help if our councillor could ease and speed up the costly and time consuming bureaucratic processes that plague new business startups. Rumour has it that Perfect Blend coffee shop on Weston Road had to delay opening for two years while awaiting various approvals.
So there we have it; there’s a lot more to Weston and Mount Dennis than people give us credit for and the best is yet to come.