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.

 

 

Rentsafe results in Weston: pretty good, with notable exceptions

Last month, The Star reported that “Ward 5 (York South-Weston) was the ward with the highest number of complaints” to 311 for apartments.

Of course, that number means nothing at all—wards with more buildings will have more complaints. But it did get me thinking.

The city inspects every large apartment building for the quality of common areas, amenities, elevators, garbage handling, lighting, heating, parking, security, structural features, and cleanliness. They do warn the building owners in advance, but they publish the ‘RentSafeTO‘ information online as part of their open data initiative

How does Ward 5 fare? In a word, quite well. Our apartments are on par with the rest of the city. We got a 71.7% (50.2 out of 70), compared to 72% (50.4 out of 70) citywide.

So The Star had nothing to complain about. Weston rentals are just fine.

City-wide, Toronto Community Housing buildings also do quite well, which I found surprising, considering the chatter and the recent news about 5 Bellevue (more on that in a minute).

TCHC buildings do perform a little worse than average, but the difference is  small. They received 69.6%—again, compared to 72% for all buildings.

One standout, though, is 5 Bellevue, in Weston.  Bellevue received a score of 40 out of 70, or 57.1%.¹

From Google Maps

This is a quite bad score: according to my calculations,  5 Bellevue is in the bottom 2.5% of all buildings in Toronto. This is not a recent result that came about because of the terrible hot water problems, either. The inspection was in March. Something has been wrong at 5 Bellevue for a while.

The worst sub-scores were for the condition of interior walls and garbage chute rooms (2 out 5). No aspect of the building did very well, though, and the typical result was only 3 out of 5.

I’m not an urban planner or an architect, but this situation makes me worry. To start with, nobody in Canada should be living without hot water. It’s simply unacceptable.

But I also worry about a death spiral. People living in bad conditions may, quite naturally, feel they don’t want to invest time, money, or work into making the community builder. That effort could be better spent moving on. As a result, the conditions worsen, the community deteriorates, and people invest even less.

There’s no reason why Westonians should live in some of the worst housing in the city. There’s certainly no reason why the city should be letting them down.

I’m sure the fix is complicated, long-term, and expensive. All the more reason to start fixing it now.

 


¹ My scores are a little different from the city’s, because I cleaned up the data and excluded results (such as balcony railings) where many buildings had no score, presumably because they lacked the feature.

Please feel free to check my work.
 

5 Bellevue without hot water

The residents of 5 Bellevue have been without hot water for two weeks, according to CityNews. The building is owned by Toronto Community Housing and has had a history of water problems. In September, they had no water at all for a few days.

The boiler was scheduled to be fixed early this week.

Yafet Tewelde, who is campaigning to be our NDP MP, took to Twitter to complain—though he did so inaccurately, saying that it had been six months.

Frances Nunziata did not return my email.

Council to ask AGCO to yank licences after shootings

City Council will ask the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to pull the liquor licences of establishments that have “been the scene of gun violence or where patrons have been in the possession of handguns or where the police have found handguns on the premises”.

Frances Nunziata said that his measure is necessary because

They’re open all night, it turns into a booze can or it turns into an after hours club, and they party on the streets and the next thing you know there’s guns and there’s gun violence….

They suspend their license for two or three weeks, and then they reopen….

People are afraid to walk down the street when they have that amount of violence.

Start video at 1:24:00 if it doesn’t do so automatically.

I’m pretty sure none of this is true. I come home pretty late on Friday nights, and I often ride my bike from strangling class. Of course, I’m not everywhere all the time, but I’ve never once seen a party on the streets. (Nor have I seen guns or gun violence).

The data, such as they are, back me up. There have been two shootings in Weston in 2019. Neither happened after hours. One happened in broad daylight, outside a convenience store—perhaps we could pull their lottery-tickets?

Nunziata’s efforts to clamp down on gun violence should be applauded. But this is neither a real effort nor clamping down. It’s a waste of time.

Worse, it’s an embarrassing slander against our town. Nobody wants to live in a place like she describes—but her riding is nothing like she describes it.

If Nunziata were serious about preventing crime and keeping kids safe, she could have funded after-school programs at libraries.

 

Frances Nunziata has egg on her face

Frances Nunziata ended up with egg on her face after a Twitter blast yesterday from Chiara Padovani, her former rival for the Ward 5 seat.

Padovani pointed out that though Nunziata had promised to support affordable housing during the campaign, she voted against several homelessness and affordable-housing motions this week at City Council.

Nunziata voted against declaring a homelessness a state of emergency. She was following city staff advice–and voting with a substantial majority–when she did so. Staff said that Wong-Tam’s motion was a panicky reaction to “social and economic problems of an ongoing systemic nature that cannot be resolved in days, weeks or months.”

Nunziata also voted against making many new developments rent controlled, and against an amendment that would have made more of those units affordable and doubled the number of very deeply discounted units–and done so at enormous expense.

What to make of this? On the one hand, Padovani’s criticisms are sharp, and Nunziata did march with ACORN, the way-left anti-poverty group that was championing the amendments to the Housing Now plan.

On the other hand, we can probably be grateful the motion to spend hundreds of millions on 3700 rent-controlled units on 99-year leases was defeated. So, in this case, she voted responsibly.

Unlike Padovani, I’m not angry that Nunziata didn’t vote with ACORN. That was the right thing to do.

I’m disappointed that she ever gave the impression she would. Here we have proof positive that her campaign wasn’t honest. I’m not surprised, but I’m disappointed.

Toronto Star pans Ward 5 incumbents

The Toronto Star Editorial Board has made its quadrennial candidate endorsements for Toronto’s newly shrunken wards. The Editorial Board is once again unimpressed with the current incumbents. They bluntly state, “Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata, should be sent to pasture.”. Four years ago,  The Star said of Frances Nunziata, “Painfully ineffective in recent years, she has been one of council’s most complacent Ford followers.”.  2014’s opposition to Frances Nunziata, Jose Garcia and Dory Chalhoub failed to get their campaigns off the ground. While Mr. Chalhoub successfully argued that Ms. Nunziata had done little to help her constituents, his and Mr. Garcia’s rightward leanings put them on a par with her politically. Despite endorsements from the Star (and Weston Web – go figure) Mr. Garcia and Mr. Chalhoub placed a distant second and third respectively.

This time there are two strong candidates among those opposing the incumbents and both are left-leaning.

The Star’s Board has given the nod to Lekan Olawoye as their 2018 choice for councillor stating, “His work on talent development at MaRS and numerous community organizations make him well placed to constructively address the issues facing youth and marginalized communities.”. The other local candidate, Chiara Padovani has built an impressive campaign and will no doubt take issue with the Star’s pick.

The good news for them is that the vote will be somewhat split between the two incumbents. The bad news is that the anti-incumbent vote will also be spread between multiple candidates, thus diluting any movement for change. That’s why all candidates will be working hard to ensure that as many people as possible get out to the polls next Monday.

Voter participation in 2014 was 53% in old Ward 11 and 55% in old Ward 12. There is plenty of room to improve as some Toronto wards had a voter turnout of over 70% that year. This compared to an average of 60.4% in Toronto as a whole.  A similarly low turnout in Ward 5 this year will probably result in one of the incumbents being sent back to city hall.