An intriguing idea for Weston

The city is studying an intriguing idea that could change the character of Toronto neighbourhoods: gently increasing density in low-density areas.

I think it’s great idea—certainly better than gigantic high-rises on residential streets. City Hall could “loosen up rules on triplexes, allow ‘garden suites’ behind houses, allow development on major streets where it’s not currently allowed and more.”

This works for me. Because of COVID, I recently moved my office into my garage, and that got me thinking about my ex-girlfriend. (Please note that my move to the garage came first! I’m not in the doghouse any more than usual.)

She lived long-term in a coach house on her parent’s medium-sized property. It was great. She had privacy, and her parents had her nearby. I got to thinking that my garage was just about the right footprint for a little place for my growing kids.¹

I’m not the only one to think so: the NY Times, among many others, has been reporting on backyard spaces, doubtless because COVID has focused the minds of white-collar workers on making the most of their living space.

Of course, that has long been a concern of people priced out of home- and yard-ownership in this wildly-expensive city.

From Summerwood
From the NY Times

 Toronto’s  planners suggest looking into allowing more:

  • Duplexes
  • Triplexes
  • Townhouses
  • Small apartment buildings
  • Laneway houses, and
  • Garden suites

Doing so would, they hope, increase housing supply and affordability. The changes would not likely come quickly, though. The planners’ report lays out a two-year warm-up period. It will considered by City Council this week.


¹ My daughter’s response to a free house for her twenties was “No way. I’m moving as far away as possible.” My son’s was more positive, presumably because I wouldn’t be able to monitor his PS6 time.

WAES seeking supplies

The Weston food bank (Weston Area Emergency Support) is looking for some supplies that are in high remand. They say

Currently Superstore at Crossroads has a couple items on sale that are in high demand. PC Family Pack Jumbo Rolls of Toilet Paper and large cases of Pampers size #5 & #6 diapers.

Donation drop off can be Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 9am to 12pm or call Chris at 647-444-0418 to arrange pickup or alternative drop off times.

Visit us at www.waes.ca for more information, location and donation details.

No; look over here.

There’s a couple of news items that have surfaced lately. One is a notorious chair throwing incident and another is a Metrolinx promise to a community.

Which is garnering the most attention?

Which is of greater consequence?

In February 2019, aspiring media celebrity Marcella Zoia, a teenager at the time, threw a folding chair from a downtown high rise. For some reason, the video of the incident was posted to social media and all hell broke loose. The press has given huge amounts of attention to the feckless Ms. Zoia’s case, hounding her during several court appearances where she eventually coughed up a guilty plea. After her sentencing (a hefty fine and community service), hanging judge John Tory has chimed in to  to say that Ms. Zoia (AKA Chair Girl) should have gone to jail. Apparently the mayor believes that without the deterrence of a jail term, others will be inspired to fling furniture from tall buildings – where will it all end? Mayor Tory had no hesitation in criticizing the work of Justice Mara Greene who wisely ignored the Crown’s recommendation of a 6-month jail term. Let’s not get into the purposes of jail but suffice to say that it should be reserved for violent offenders rather than idiotic teens. This isn’t Georgia or Alabama.

Let’s take a moment to be grateful that the mayor is in a position where he is relatively inconsequential and move on to another news item.

In this story, Councillor Anthony Peruzza is complaining that Metrolinx is breaking a promise to donate a chunk of land in the Finch Avenue West and Yorkgate Boulevard area for the purpose of building a community hub. Here, you’ll not find hordes of reporters breathlessly pursuing Metrolinx executives for an answer. Lazy members of the press and Mayor Tory find items like this tedious. There are no dramatic foot chases no videos and no public outrage. Metrolinx spokesperson Anne-Marie Aikins says that Metrolinx cannot donate land to the City but indicated that there’s lots of time. to work something out. Translation: there’s time for the public to lose interest and for the story to be buried.

Sadly, that sums up the news cycle these days. Councillor Peruzza represents one of the poorest wards in the city and instead of government agencies joining forces to build up an impoverished community, they conspire to work against it. The press largely doesn’t care.

This is reminiscent of the Toronto Parking Authority sale of the 16 John Street parking lot in Weston, a piece of land that once belonged to the old town of Weston (in another one of the poorest wards in the city) and which could have formed the heart of a stand-alone Weston Hub. It wasn’t to be. People were seduced by the promise of a glitzy new home for the Weston Farmers Market along with community space and live/work artist accommodations. Council was swayed by the next-to-zero cost and the only downside was to be a 30-storey tower and podium, something not envisioned by Toronto’s 2011 feasibility study.

The original spacious home of the Weston Farmers Market. (From Google Earth)

The intended home of the Weston Farmers Market. File.

When the Weston Farmers Market opens a week on Saturday (August 1), it won’t be convening in the space that was a big part of the selling job.

One of the concept drawings of the farmers market.

Apparently traders don’t want to use it because it’s too small and their trucks (which they need close by) would damage the paving.

The new home of the Weston Farmers Market (Google Earth).

No, the market’s going back to almost the exact location where it began on John Street. The ample parking promised for the farmers market turns out to be the new market space itself. The space is larger than the fancy concept one and the paving can withstand trucks. If instead of selling the parking lot, the Toronto Parking Authority (a branch of city council) had donated the land to the community, things could have turned out differently. Sadly the press was focussed on other things and the public was seduced by fancy drawings. That’s the nature of news these days.

Maybe we can invite Marcella Zoia to cut the ribbon on August 1st.

Pelmo is sick with COVID

The Pelmo Park–Humberlea neighbourhood, part of which is in the area most people would call Weston, has the highest rate of new community-spread COVID cases in the city.

Pelmo Park–Humberlea includes the Pelmo neighbourhood south of the 401, as well as an area to the north of the 401 and  west of the 400.Map of Pelmo Park

Pelmo Park–Humberlea has had 17 new “sporadic” cases in the past 21 days, out of a population of about 10,000. That gives it an infection rate of 159 per 100,000 people, by far the highest in the city—the average rate is 28. (“Sporadic” cases occur outside a healthcare facility).

On the one hand, this may be a statistical blip: 17 cases isn’t a huge number. On the other hand, it is the highest rate in the city in the statistic I think we should care most about: new cases of community spread.

COVID continues to be a problem in the northwest part of the city. In Weston proper, we have had 13 new cases in the past 21 days, and we rank a dismal 9th-worst for new infection rates.

By contrast, more than 10% of the city’s neighbourhoods have had no new cases at all.

Including outbreaks in healthcare facilities makes the picture even darker. Humber Heights (just across the river), Weston, and Mount Dennis have been three of the four worst-hit neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Frances Nunziata says she prompted Joe Cressy, the Chair of Toronto Public Health, to write a letter to the Ontario Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer. The letter explains Cressy’s hypotheses around why COVID has been so prevalent here: race, income, reduced access to health services, and household crowding.

He calls on the province to provide:

  • Increased testing, including mobile testing
  • Accommodation for people needing to isolate
  • Increased data collection
  • Improved protections for workers
  • Faster test results

 

 

 

 

Income is related to COVID prevalence

As we’ve discussed, Weston has a large number of COVID cases. It’s not clear why this is the case: it could be density, income, an increased reliance on public transit, or just how diseases work.

I thought that I would try to puzzle out one of these variables. Of course, I’m neither an epidemiologist nor a statistician. But I am pretty handy with a spreadsheet!

And it looks to me like income and COVID prevalence have a loose relationship.

I compared the 2016 neighbourhood median pre-tax income and the COVID rate per 100,000 (to June 4, including public and institutional transmission).

As I suspected, the richest neighbourhoods have very little spread of COVID. This makes sense to me: people there drive, are spread out, and can work from home.

The highest COVID rates are in the poorer neighbourhoods—but not all poorer areas have high rates of transmission.

Income is far from the only explanation. The R² value is .14, suggesing that income explains 14% of the variance in COVID rates. But that’s not nothing, and you read it here first.

Please feel free to check my work.

 

New bike shop in Weston

There’s a new little bike repair shop in Weston: Cheel’s Wheels.

Mark Cheel says “I was recently let go from my project management position due to COVID-19 and I figured, while I was on the job hunt, to get back to my roots and jump back into bicycle repair”, an industry he has more than a decade of experience in.

His prices are very fair: $30 for a tune-up, which includes a lube job, gears and brakes, wheel truing and a safety check. For $15 he’ll pick up or deliver, too.

And, because you can’t be too safe, he wipes down the bike before and after any repairs.

Call or text Mark at (416) 951-8950 if you have any questions.

Comal Y Canela fundraiser

You can help Comal Y Canela, the country’s best Mexican restaurant, raise money for its informal food bank, which hands out groceries no questions asked. If you have any money to spare, I know it will go a long way.

Every week, Yasmen De Leon helps 125 families with bags of dried goods, fruits and vegetables, and eggs, all handed out on a table outside her tiny restaurant.

Charmaine Baan, the organizer, has raised $1471 of $4000 so far.

BlogTO made a video about her food bank, and TVO has a wonderful article about Yasmen De Leon:

De Leon and her family left Mexico when she was five. They lived in the United States for four years before moving to Canada, where they spent six years waiting for refugee status.

“We went to a food bank,” she says. “And they couldn’t help us, because we didn’t have Canadian ID.”

The family went back to Mexico, then headed to Guatemala, where her father was murdered. Her mother packed her five children into the car and drove to Canada.

“My mother was a single mom of five kids,” De Leon says. “Many times, we had to go to the food bank. And, yet, she never denied anyone a plate of food. All my friends ate at our house. I remember, one time, we made peanut butter, pita, and Cheerio sandwiches. Because that’s all we had. If we see our neighbours like our children, then we would be much better as a society and a community.”