Overhead Wiring is so Third World.

Overhead wiring detracts from our streetscape and especially from heritage buildings like our beautiful library.

Weston, like many parts of the third world – oh and also Toronto – is plagued with overhead wiring. It’s completely unnecessary since there are no streetcars in Weston. It’s in fact a false economy on the part of power and communications companies.

In the winter of 2013, the city was shut down for days because an ice storm downed a lot of overhead wiring. More than 300,000 Toronto households were affected. The cost to individuals, the city and the economy was enormous and clean-up costs alone were estimated at over $100,000,000 at the time. Don’t blame the trees; many Toronto trees had been weakened thanks to pruning to accommodate wiring!

The adjacent city of Mississauga was minimally affected because their wiring is buried safely underground.

The 2013 ice storm cost Toronto dearly. From cbc.ca

Overhead wiring is a danger during ice storms and traffic collisions but there is an aesthetic consideration too. What is the effect of wiring on our streetscape?

Take a look at our beautiful Arts and Crafts library without overhead wires (courtesy of a quick Photoshop job). The building can be appreciated in all its glory without unsightly wiring.

Photoshop did what the city and utilities won’t.

Overhead wiring and transportation have one thing in common. The city and utilities should have been tackling them for decades but in Toronto, there is always a lack of money thanks to the short-sighted obsession with keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation. Interestingly, this same obsession doesn’t apply to salaries for the mayor and councillors as their paycheques are automatically linked to the rate of inflation. Nice.

Oh, by the way, yesterday’s photo reveals that the library needs new shingles. Probably cheaper than a leaky roof but then that’s not the Toronto way, is it?

A tale of two wards.

Councillor Pam McConnell. (from Twitter.com)

The recent and untimely death of Councillor Pam McConnell brought forth an outpouring of tributes. Many remembered her service to the community and the great things a determined councillor can achieve in a Toronto ward. Ms. McConnell may have represented Rosedale but she consistently voted to defend her poorest constituents, not the richest. She also fought hard to improve the public domain rather than work for private interests.

We can view Ms. McConnell’s recent voting record through a handy grid compiled by Toronto blogger Matt Elliott. The Google Docs spreadsheet itemizes how each Toronto councillor voted on important topics over the past few years. As part of the grid, Mr. Elliott also keeps a scorecard on how each councillor’s overall votes align with those of our right-leaning Mayor John Tory – recently described by some wags as ‘Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing’.

Ms. McConnell it turns out, voted with the Mayor only 41.5% of the time. In contrast, our own Councillor Nunziata voted with the Mayor a remarkable 92.5% of the time; more than anyone else on council. That’s loyalty but at what cost to the people in York South-Weston?

Mr. Elliott’s scorecard can be found at this link.

Artscape publishes Q&As

The Weston Hub / Common in a 2015 artist concept.

Artscape is a non-profit arm of the development industry that works with planners and developers to incorporate affordable artistic spaces into building projects. One project now under construction is in Weston and it will be known as Weston Common. Read more on this project here, here and here. A quick search through our archives will pull up more articles.

Recently, Artscape asked for questions about the new Hub and five of them have been answered already. Here they are:

Q: How high will the ceilings be in the Hub’s studio spaces?

A: The approximate ceiling height from the top of the finished floor in the studio spaces is 4.75m (15 feet and 7 inches). Because the ceilings in the studio spaces are open, this estimated height does not take into account any servicing (ducts, lighting, etc.), so practical height will be somewhat lower. 

Q: Is there additional storage available for occupants of the studios?

A: To ensure flexibility of use, storage has not been built into the studio spaces, and the studios do not include dedicated storage space elsewhere in the Hub. When thinking about the area of the studio spaces, also consider how to accommodate storage needs within that area. 

Weston Web Comment: There will be 3,897 m² (40,000 square feet) of storage space next door available for a fee. Perhaps some sort of discount could be negotiated for artists in residence.

Q: Does the Hub have parking?

A: While the Hub does not have its own dedicated parking, there will be ample parking available with easy access to the facility. The Hub is located immediately beneath the parking decks of a large parking garage at 33 King Street, and those parking levels will be directly connected by an elevator that will exit on to the outdoor public space next to the Hub’s entrance. There will also be a new 70-space TPA lot built next to the project site. Finally, the Hub itself will have a loading entrance, accessible from the driveway between the Hub and the railway corridor. 

Q: When might the studio spaces be delivered for fit-out?

A: Construction is proceeding on schedule, and spaces may be available for delivery to occupants as early as July 2018, but an exact date cannot yet be provided. The studio spaces will be delivered as open, flexible spaces, in a state that is suitable for occupation (flooring, lights, sprinklers, ductwork installed). If the occupant wishes to further sub-divide or fit-out the space, it will be at their own cost. Depending on timing, additional fit-out may be undertaken under Artscape’s building permit, or following completed of work on the Hub, under a new permit obtained by the occupant.

Q: Will the Artscape Hub be accessible?

A: Yes, the Artscape Hub at Weston Common will be fully accessible by Ontario standards.

Mayor Tory schools Nunziata in compassion.

Last year, it was announced that up to 15 new homeless shelters would be built in wards throughout Toronto. One of them, a temporary shelter located at 731 Runnymede, just south of St. Clair Avenue West was proposed with a lease of 10 years with two 5-year extension options. Much effort has been put into ensuring that the shelter was to be state of the art after addressing many community concerns.

Early this morning, Ms Nunziata came up with a way of killing the shelter by cleverly proposing that the shelter site be leased for only 5 years at a time, effectively rendering the proposal dead given the uncertainties of the short time frame.

For some time now, Ms. Nunziata has been taking credit for chopping the proposed 100 bed shelter down to 50 but was shamed into voting for the temporary shelter’s 10-year lease when Mayor Tory gave the councillor and her allies a strongly worded lesson in compassion. Ms. Nunziata also managed to accuse city staff of misleading the council about the project but was forced to withdraw her comments by the mayor.

Her allies on the motion were Cesar Palacio and one of our many deputy mayors, Denzil Minnan Wong. No doubt it helps that Mayor Tory has the power to strip these councillors of their privileged positions on council.

Watch the whole process unfold here:

and part 2 here (Mayor Tory’s speech is in this one):

Perhaps Mayor Tory isn’t the worst mayor ever…. We’ll see.

Read more in this Toronto Star article.

Mount Dennis Net Zero Community Meeting

Glen Murray discusses implications and possibilities for Mount Dennis.

Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray was the star attraction at a meeting held in Mount Dennis Library tonight. The meeting was hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Laura Albanese. Jim Baxter, director of Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division was along to add support. Over 40 people came out on a 34° evening to hear some details about Ontario’s five year Climate Change Action Plan and how it can be applied in Mount Dennis.

Highlights of the meeting:

Minister Murray promised to coax Metrolinx into approving the rail path northward expansion through Mount Dennis and possibly Weston. He applauded the net zero initiative being undertaken in Mount Dennis.

There will be energy retrofits available for social and rental housing.

Home energy saving upgrades will be subsidized.

The Ontario Government is very supportive of more bike lanes and better cycling infrastructure.

He thinks that bike paths along hydro corridors should be encouraged.

The province will be offering an incentive of up to $14,000 towards the lease or purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $1000 to install a home charging station.

Four years of free overnight charging for electric vehicles.

Rebates to help trade to an electric vehicle.

Before selling a home, owners will be required to perform an energy audit so that potential purchasers will know the home’s energy costs.

Encouraging words were said about the Black Creek channel and its possible naturalization.

The Green Investment Fund will provide money towards retrofitting low energy systems in homes, apartments and businesses.

Minister Murray was keen to return to meet with residents for a hike / cycle along the Humber to look at the weirs along the river.

Elliot Strashin owns and is renovating the old Cooper Canada sporting goods factory on Alliance and presciently enough has been renovating it, placing a solar farm on the roof, geothermal energy systems and better insulation. One of his tenants is a company called Dynacert which designs computerized on demand water electrolysis systems that feed the product (hydrogen and oxygen) into existing fossil fuel engines instead of using diesel or gasoline. This process reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. Container ship engines generate huge amounts of emissions are being considered for application of this technology. He was wondering about what support there would be for expanding the factory. Minister Murray promised to meet up with Mr. Strashin to see what can be done.

Mr Murray seems quite taken with Mount Dennis and mentioned that what people are looking for is a community with a history and unique businesses, restaurants and cafes. They don’t want to find chain businesses in their locale. Ideally the neighbourhood should be walkable and have good public transportation and cycling options. In 2021, once the Eglinton Crosstown is opened, and cycling infrastructure is improved, Mount Dennis will be well on its way to being such a community. The formal motion to declare Mount Dennis a net zero community will be presented to Council in July.

The meeting ended with an individual question and answer session.

Nunziata apologizes to Mammoliti

Our councillor Frances Nunziata occupies the speaker’s chair during council meetings. It’s a lot of work. Things sometimes get testy and having to deal with the effervescent streams of consciousness mouthed by neighbouring councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is no easy task.

Last week the two had an exchange and the result is interesting. Watch Ms. Nunziata call out Mammo and tell him to keep his mouth shut. After some reflection, kindred spirit, Councillor Jim Karygiannis then leaps to Mammoliti’s defence.

After that, watch Mayor Tory coach Councillor Nunziata into an apology. It takes some persistence on his part but eventually the mayor’s lip synching gets through and a grudging apology is issued.

Watch the sorry spectacle unfold here.

 

Great news and bad news.

It’s well known that many more people in Toronto would cycle if they were isolated and safe from other traffic. The Ontario Government announced today that it will be spending up to $42.5 million on cycling infrastructure across the province. According to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, the Ontario Municipal Cycling Commuter Program aims to, “promote safety for cyclists and make cycling more comfortable and more appealing for daily commutes and other frequent trips”. The Ministry has also set up a website to promote cycling. This is great news as York South Weston is one of the most under-served wards in the city when it comes to separated bike lanes. As pointed out in a previous article, a few sharrows are the main concession to cycling in the Weston, Mount-Dennis area.

Toronto Council and the mayor were no doubt horrified and shamed by the recent tragic death of a five year-old riding with a parent in a separate but unprotected lane adjacent to busy traffic. This lane should have been physically separated from Lakeshore Road traffic had the city followed its own guidelines. The fact that it wasn’t is an indication of the low esteem in which cyclists and their safety are held in the city. The Mayor has offered to dither study the matter once more – a familiar council tactic designed to do nothing after the clamour for action has died down.

The lack of separation is contrary to the city’s own guidelines. From the Toronto Star.

Instead, Mayor Tory may wish to actually read the city’s existing guidelines concerning cycle trails in the city. I’ve saved him the bother of doing a ‘study’ by quoting the relevant section.

6.4.1. Trails Adjacent High-Volume or High-Speed Arterial Roadways

High-volume and high-speed roadways may have space for trails in the lands dedicated to them. Generally,

these are roadways with speeds of 60 km/h or more and four or more lanes of traffic. These types of roadways often do not have sidewalks, and a trail adjacent should be planned in a similar manner as a trail within a dedicated right-of-way.

The conflict between high-speed traffic and trail uses is best addressed by distance. Designers should try to achieve the maximum distance between the trail and the roadway. Aligning trails at the maximum distance from the roadway will also help to “future-proof” the trail against road expansions.

Where an appropriate distance cannot be achieved, guide rails and a physical separation such as a fence or landscaping are recommended.*

*my bold.

Toronto City Council has a large number of car-centric members. Read here (and weep) for some of our elected officials opining on two-wheeled transportation.

So the bad news is therefore that any spending has to be approved by individual members of Toronto City Council. Let’s hope it won’t take any more lives before some concrete and meaningful action is taken. With the province providing up to 80% of the funding, there will no longer be a valid excuse not to act.