Nunziata asks for Somali community cultural centre

City Council will ask staff to study the feasibility of a Somali community cultural centre if Frances Nunziata’s motion is approved this week at City Hall this week.

The motion says,

While the Somali community continues to thrive, it also faces significant systemic barriers due to anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. Many studies, including the work of the City’s Confronting Ant-Black [sic] Racism Unit, and also the testimony of Somali residents at City Council or local boards have documented the deleterious impacts of systemic racism on the prosperity of this dynamic and vibrant community. In addition, action 7.1 in the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Action Plan calls on the City to “improve recreation spaces in neighborhoods [sic] with high proportions of Black residents”.

If approved, the motion would ask staff to “explore potential partnerships for a new community cultural and recreation centre” as well as find a location and funding opportunities.

Big Etobicoke York Community Council meeting

On January 5, the Etobicoke York Community Council will be having (what seems to me) a quite important meeting.

They will be discussing the “Picture Mount Dennis Planning Framework”, which will, among other things:

  • Amend the Official Plan and allow higher buildings near Weston road and the rail corridor
  • “Draft a Secondary Plan for Mount Dennis to establish a comprehensive planning framework”
  • “provide a new policy direction for Mount Dennis to support a transit oriented, complete community,
  • “Provide provisions”—no idea what that means—”for future parkland dedication and Privately Owned Publicly Accessible Spaces”
  • “Amend the Zoning By-law based on the recommendations of the report to… amend the zoning for lands… with a Neighbourhoods designation, establish maximum retail unit frontage length for new development on Weston Road; include maximum building heights, expressed in metres and number of storeys, for each character area; establish maximum retail sizes and amend zoning boundaries to resolve zoning inconsistencies.”

I’ll be honest: I don’t have the know-how or the time to figure this out. It’s a huge, 220-page, two part (1, 2) report. I’d love your help. If you can explain what this all means, email me.

Etobicoke York Community Council will also continue to consider two very large developments on January 5. One is on Hollis Drive and the other on Photography Drive.

The Hollis Drive proposed development is a 34-storey, 365-unit tower on a residential street.

The Photography Drive project is even bigger.

Vacant home tax coming

This week, Frances Nunziata and City Council voted to implement a vacant home tax in Toronto.

Homes empty for more than 6 months in a calendar year would be subject to a 1% tax on the value of the home—$10,000 a year on a $1 million house, for example. The tax would start in January, 2023, based on occupancy in 2022.

There will be exemptions for snowbirds, the sick and recently deceased, and homes undergoing renovations.

Weston Asset Management Development questions

On Thursday November 28, at Weston Collegiate Institute, a meeting will be held to assess public reaction to a huge development proposed for Weston’s old ‘Main Street’.

There’s no doubt development is needed in Weston. The question is what form should it take? Do we want the familiar streetscape of the current architecture (Bloor West Village style), something moderately larger or are people ok with the gargantuan development being proposed. Once a pattern of new development along Weston Road is established, it will set the trend. Until recently, the plan for Weston was for something moderate that would fit into the streetscape.

Now there is no mention of Weston in Toronto’s official Plan and it seems strange that this has happened without community input.

Here’s what the old guidelines said about development in the area.

GUIDELINES

The following general objectives have been established for the Weston area.

Weston will be recognized as a distinct and significant community within the City of Toronto,
as a community rooted in its history. Weston has experienced considerable change in land use, employment, retail activity and residential character and will continue to experience these changes in the future. The challenge is to recapture Weston’s unique character of the past within a greatly changed urban area and reality. These guidelines will help manage any future change within Weston in order to achieve the following goals:

  • The revitalization of retail and community activity along Weston Road as the strong and attractive heart of Weston
  • The maintenance of the quality of life in the neighbourhoods
  • The introduction of new residential development along the Weston Road corridor
  • The generation of new employment opportunities on former industrial lands
  • The enhancement of the Humber Valley as an environmental and recreational asset for the city.

All buildings located in Weston Village will be limited to a maximum height of 24 metres with the following exception:

– buildings fronting onto Weston Road and/or John Street will be limited to a maximum height of 3 storeys or 9 metres for all portions of the buildings located within 6 metres of the street line. Any additional height above the third storey will be set back a minimum of 3 metres from the face of the base building to a maximum height of 8 storeys (24 metres) 

Why is 8 stories no longer the limit? Surely Councillor Nunziata should have kept the community informed of this change, official or not. To go from 8 to 29 stories is a huge increase.

There seems to be an effort from supporters of this project to put their thumb on the scale – one person alone commented 9 times on the previous article. The attitude from some supporters seems to be, “Shut up and be grateful NIMBY”.

There’s nothing wrong with development provided it enriches the community – not just the developer. This project is way too large and will do nothing for the community except add traffic, shadow and sewage issues.

It’s not as if we haven’t learned this lesson before. When the Weston Hub was proposed, it was going to be a shining beacon and provide all things to all people, including an indoor / outdoor farmers market and community centre. Now it looks as if there won’t even be room for the Farmers Market when traders use the designated space next May.

Questions that should concern every Weston resident:

  • Do we want to place these huge high rises in the heart of Weston?
  • Why is this development not in keeping with the scale of the area.
  • Why has the project doubled in size since the last public consultation?
  • If this project is approved, where will the considerable Section 37 monies be spent? (Let’s hope no more Nychtophilias)
  • Why are there so few parking spaces allocated? (There are 7 above ground parking spaces (for visitors) and 174 below ground for a building that will house more than a thousand people. Weston is not downtown Toronto.)
  • If a supermarket opens on the second floor, where will people park and how will they carry groceries to their cars?
  • Where are the shadow studies for the winter months?
  • Who are the people behind Weston Asset Management?
  • Why does Weston Asset Management have no web presence?
  • What is Councillor Nunziata’s position on this development?

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.

22 John in the news for large rent increases: quite a bit to do about much less than appears

The new rental building at 22 John was in the news last week for asking tenants to pay as much as 21.6% more than last year—an increase they’ve since backed down on.

From Google Maps

A spokesperson told The Star that tenants can reduce the rent increase  by signing a year-long lease instead of moving to a month-to-month agreement when their agreements come up for renewal. The increase could still be as much as 10%, however.

Chiara Padovani, a local advocate, said today on Twitter:

Padovani, who was a rival for the councillor’s seat, has started a petition calling for rent control province wide.

It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Rockport did not receive city tax money to build for-profit rentals. They received waivers  and $7 million in provincial and federal money—but it was to build  below-market apartments and public spaces. 22 John is a mixed-use building, with a jumble of market and subsidized spaces.

Rockport only received help to build the below-market spaces. They built the for-profit spaces with their own money. Those rents are—rightly or wrongly—theirs alone to set.

Frances Nunziata, rightly, voted against applying rent control on buildings just like 22 John: buildings in which mixed incomes live together. It was perfectly reasonable to do that; after all, mixed-income buildings are good and should be encouraged.