Update on the worst buildings in Weston

Plank Road Building
Plank Road Building

Laura Albanese, the MPP for York-South Weston, explained the status of 5 buildings to be ashamed of in Weston. There is much to be hopeful about.

Albanese was able to provide me with information about three of the four properties I asked about (one property had two buildings)—and the fourth was my mistake. (I gave her the wrong address.)

The owners of the Plank Road Building, which I recently visited, were ordered to begin the repairs that I saw. They were told to have an architect and engineer identify the problems with the building; the owners were to then fix those problems. According to Albanese, they have already repaired the floor joists and are to be working on the masonry and foundation. The owners refused to donate the crumbling building to the city, even though the community would have raised the money for repairs and turned it over to community use.

2272 Weston Rd (appx)
2272 Weston Rd (appx)

The houses near collapse between 2270 and 2274 Weston Road were supposed to have been demolished to make way for a 12-storey seniors’ residence. The plan was rejected, however, in late 2009, and the owners have not resubmitted an improved proposal.

The donut shop near the 401 will be demolished to create a Shell gas station. Work appears to have begun on this property.

On the one hand, I find it reassuring that local politicians and bureaucrats work to preserve the heritage and appearance of Toronto. And I must extend a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Albanese; her response to my email was extremely thorough and generous.

2562 Weston Rd
2562 Weston Rd

Yet, on the other hand, I do find it discouraging that properties can sit for years, sometimes decades, and in the case of the Plank Road Building half a century without investment. It may reflect an inability of the government to apply pressure to developers; it certainly reflects developers’ lack of interest in the community. Developers only let a property be destroyed by time because it would cost more for them to improve or sell it.

While real-estate speculation is as old as real estate, it has spillover effects that are obvious in Weston. These abandoned properties do not lose their owners’ money—if they did, the owners would be motivated to sell. But they certainly lose their neighbours’ money. Every neighbour is punished for the laziness, ineptitude, or avarice of the actual owners, but none of the neighbours has enough power to do something about it. And while it may not be illegal to be a bad neighbour, it remains a low-down and rotten thing to be.

Community council officially opposed to school move

The Toronto District Catholic School Board took a liver punch yesterday. Etobicoke York Community Council expressed its disapproval of the proposal to move St John the Evangelist elementary school to Swanek Park.

The TDCSB wants to move the over-crowded school to Swanek Park. The school is now located on a small, primarily concrete parcel near the train tracks. At a minimum, the board would buy and demolish enough homes to create space for an entrance to the school. Likely, however, it would have to create green space equal to the amount given up to the school site. This may entail the expropriation and demolition of all the homes around the park.

The council passed a motion yesterday that said the plan to buy and demolish “many, if not all of the 33 houses immediately surrounding the park” was “unacceptable”. Frances Nunziata, the councillor for Ward 11, said that Swanek Park is “not an appropriate location for the school” in her summary to the council.

There are no sanctions or actions attached to the council item. Still, the pressure is now clearly on the school board; Nunziata also sits on the the Toronto Parks and Environment Committee, and is also almost certain to win the election in the fall. Thus, the TDCSB now faces both an outraged community and an opposed, long-sitting councillor with considerable power over the fate of its plan.

While this is only a symbolic loss for the TDCSB, the board appears to face a struggle.

The Toronto District Catholic School Board took a liver punch today. Etobicoke York City Council hammered the board for its proposal to move St John the Evangelist elementary school to Swanek Park.

The TDCSB wants to move the over-crowded school to Swanek Park because it is a large green site. At a minimum, the board would buy and demolish enough homes to create space for an entrance to the school. Likely, however, it would be forced by the city to create green space equal to the amount used for the school site. This may entail the expropriation and demolition of all the homes around the park.

The council passed an unscheduled motion today that said the plans to buy and demolish “many, if not most of the houses surrounding the park” was “***”

The motion does not appear to actually do anything except express council’s disapproval. There are no sanctions or actions attached. Still, the pressure is now on the school board; Frances Nunziata, the City Councillor for Ward 11, sits on both the EYCC and the Toronto Parks and Environment Committee. She is also almost certain to win the election in the fall. Thus, the TDCSB faces an outraged community and an opposed, long-sitting councillor with power.

While this is a first (and mostly symbolic) loss for the TDCSB it will not likely be the last.

Etobicoke-York Council considering future of Swanek Park

The first political shots have been fired in the battle over Swanek Park. Etobicoke-York City Council will today vote on whether it should officially disapprove of moving St John the Evangelist into the park.

The Toronto District Catholic School Board would like to move the over-crowded school to Swanek because the current location is small, lacks green space, and is close to the train tracks.

At least 4 houses would have to be demolished, but Nunziata says the “TCDSB have stated that if the school were to be built on this parkland, many, if not all of the 33 houses immediately surrounding the park would have to be acquired or, if necessary, expropriated.”

The local council will consider two of Nunziata’s recommendations: whether to not support the conversion of Swanek Park, and whether to direct the city to consider adding Swanek Park to the inventory of heritage properties.

Neighbourhood restaurants given conditional passes

Two neighbourhood restaurants were recently given conditional passes.

Golden Star Restaurant, at 2133 Jane, failed to protect food from contamination and did not properly maintain its equipment. The proprietors should have known better: they have received three other conditional passes in the past two years, and they are, according Public Health, a high risk restaurant that must be inspected three times a year. High risk restaurants serve a high-risk population, use risky processes and food, or have been implicated as the source of a previous outbreak.

Another restaurant in the same plaza was also given a yellow card. Ecua-Peru Fried Chicken at 2111 Jane St was given a yellow card after inspectors found a very long list of infractions, including failing to use proper utensils to ensure food safety, failing to keep hazardous food cold, and not providing bathroom supplies.

Golden Star Restaurant
Golden Star Restaurant

Central Bar and Grill takes a yellow card!

The Central Bar and Grill was given only a conditional pass by health inspectors in a recent inspection. Inspectors say that the restaurant did not store and remove waste correctly.

This is not the first time the restaurant has been given a conditional pass. In August of 2009, inspectors blasted it with six infractions, including the same error as this time. It was also cited for improper kitchen sanitation, lack of employee hand-washing, and waste disposal. The Central Bar and Grill did pass three subsequent inspections, however.

This inspection comes only shortly after the Toronto Star claimed that the business is (or was) a gang hangout.

Documentary about Weston ends its run tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day to catch a documentary installation about Weston.

Weston Public is being shown at the Beaver Hall Gallery as part of the Ryerson graduate school of documentary media exhibition. Sarah Sharkey Pearce created Weston Public to explore youth’s experiences in Weston and Mount Dennis.

The trailer (for the whole exhibition, not just her documentary, unfortunately) is below:

Beaver Hall Gallery is at 29 McCaul St downtown. The gallery is open from 12 – 7 and admission is free.

St John’s Advisory Council co-chair explains move to Swanek Park

Dave Bennett, co-chair of the St. John the Evangelist Catholic School Advisory Council, answered my questions about moving the school to Swanek Park. Bennett stated emphatically that the board will not be expropriating the houses surrounding the park. “That is untrue,” he said, “There are 32 homes that go around Swanek. We need four. That’s quite a difference.” The four homes would be to create an opening to the park and would be sold voluntarily, he said.

Bennett also claimed, though, that the city will want to keep the total amount of green space the same as it is now. “If the city were to ask for [the same acreage of] Swanek Park to be there, it would be an additional 13 homes. That’s only if the city asks for that. Nothing is in stone. It’s all about the site”, he said. The city could also replace the green space lost at Swanek by creating parks elsewhere, he claims.

According to Bennett, the board is considering four locations in addition to Swanek:

  1. The former Beer Store lot on Weston Rd.
  2. Pelmo Park
  3. The grounds of HJ Alexander School
  4. The Visioneering land on Oak St.

The TCDSB prefers Swanek Park because it “is .8 km from the current site [and] almost in the middle of the catchment area for the school.” Further, he said, “the park size is more than what’s required for a school and our community would still have their park.” The other locations are all small and either close to the train tracks or the 401.

When asked what the board would do if they were unable to buy four contiguous homes around Swanek Park, Bennett replied, “That’s a good question.” Expropriation “is a process that is a last resort. They want to be good neighbours.”