“ENUF ALREADY” – TORONTO CITY COUNCIL REINS IN DEVELOPERS ON A CHUNK OF YONGE STREET

ENUF1TORONTO’s storied main street – Yonge – is presently being overshadowed by high-rise condo towers. There are construction cranes on almost every significant block raising steel behind low-rise Victorian brick structures. But City Hall has come to the rescue, designating Yonge between College and Bloor a Heritage Conservation District.

ENUF4<PHOTO ABOVE – The remains of a full city block, demolished in February from Alexander Street to Maitland.  Fortunately the 1950’s low-rises on this site will probably not be missed.According to Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam there are over 30 active development applications along Yonge between Bloor and the waterfront. Small property owners have been selling out to big developers and that could mean runaway high-rise. The heritage designation won’t stop skyscrapers but it will keep them at bay, and help preserve the street’s character.

ENUF2<PHOTO ABOVE – this row from Cumberland Street to Yorkville Avenue is just outside the conservation district.  It’s being integrated by the developers into a new condo development – No. 1 Yorkville>  Mark Garner of the Downtown Business Improvement Area told Metro News “residents want the independent coffee shop, butcher shop and chocolatier.” In other words, big box stores will not be replacing these little shops, and the street will keep some of its hodge-podge charm.  Well done, City Hall, and not a moment too soon.

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BARGAIN TRAIN FARES TO PEARSON INT’L AIRPORT & (BLOOR ST. BIKE LANES COMING SOON – MAYBE)

UPEXPRESS2Metrolinx got the message. It’ll now cost $12 ($9 with a Presto card) to travel between Union Station downtown and Pearson International Airport (reduced from $27.50). UPExpress was expected to attract 5,000 riders per day for the first year of service, but was only averaging 2,300. Changes to this deluxe service were made just in time for March Break.

bikesbloor2There’s a good possibility TORONTO’s Bloor Street West will finally get bike lanes – after several decades in the making. Plans are to install bikeways on both sides of Bloor from Shaw Street to Avenue Road. The grumbling amongst motorists and business owners has begun.  “Support among residents and business is strong.” – Jared Kolb, Cycle TORONTO  For Globe and Mail columnist MARCUS GEE’s thoughts on street parking and bike lanes go to “Grow up TORONTO, it’s time to let street parking go” –  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/grow-up-toronto-its-time-to-let-street-parking-go/article29188632/

A PRESIDENTIAL EMBRACE MAKES THE NEWS AND A TORONTO DESIGNER IS “FLOORED”

NATIONAL POST2Front page of Canada’s NATIONAL POST on Friday with the brotherly caption “Our great countries have been friends a long time. We grew up together.” – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

TRUDEAUS3TORONTO- based designer LUCIAN MATIS got the surprise of his life when Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau arrived at the White House welcoming ceremony in one of his creations – a sleeved red dress with orchids. “I was floored. I was completely ecstatic.” he said.  <PHOTO BELOW – the Prime Minister’s wife and First Lady Michelle Obama have some fun.>

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Romanian-born Matis already knew that Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau was planning to wear one of his dresses to the White House state dinner, but had no idea she’d begin and end the day in two of his designs.  For more on Lucian Matis – http://lucianmatis.com/#about-1-1-1

THE ‘GOLDEN STATE’ IS STILL GOLDEN – SOME PICTURES FROM MY SOJOURN IN CALIFORNIA

CALIFORNIA1One of my favourite places in the world is California. I’ve been there many times, and despite mud slides, drought, floods, canyon fires, freeway angst, sprawl, overpopulation etc. – it still shines brightly. <PHOTO ABOVE – 6:30 am, sunrise over Palm Desert>

CALIFORNIA19I’m standing in front of Robert Therrien’s ‘Under The Table’ at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Grand Avenue South, Los Angeles.  The Broad is LA’s newest art attraction – lineups every day.

CALIFORNIA6Two Canada Geese drop in for an (unwelcome) visit.

CALIFORNIA 12Norm’s, a California institution – like Fran’s in TORONTO

CALIFORNIA7Windmill farm, Palm Springs, off Interstate 10

CALIFORNIA21Testing Santa Monica’s brand new lightrail (LRT) transit system

CALIFORNIA20Inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic (LAPhil)

CALIFORNIA7A Big Blue Bus stop, Santa Monica, a city that embraces public transport

CALIFORNIA23Farewell to Palm Springs – until next time.

CALIFORNIA22Passing over Chicago after midnight

TORONTO1Home again.

COLUMNIST EDWARD KEENAN TOSSES A ‘TRANSIT STINK BOMB’ INTO THE OUTER SUBURBS

KEENAN5Broadcaster and newspaper columnist EDWARD KEENAN is known for telling it like it is. In a March 8 column he’s concerned that York Region (i.e. the 905 outer ring of suburban towns, cities and sprawl) is lobbying the federal government for cash to extend TORONTO’s subway (largely paid for by city taxpayers) to Richmond Hill “a neighbouring city up there in the northlands”.  The column – ‘No room for Vaughan in Toronto transit’ – opens with a vivid description of the 905 City of VAUGHAN . . .

KEENAN3With that out of the way, the main concern of Mr. Keenan is that folks in Richmond Hill will get first choice of seats and standing room on TTC trains heading south to TORONTO. By the time the trains reach the city limits, the good burghers waiting there (who are paying for the system) will have to squeeze themselves aboard.  To make a long story short, Mr. Keenan and the good burghers don’t think it’s fair to extend their subway further into the ‘burbs.  That’s putting it mildly.

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REMEMBERING GUERILLA – TORONTO’S ALTERNATIVE CULTURE WEEKLY, 1970-73

In the seventies, GUERILLA ruled the roost when it came to TORONTO’s pinko, lefty, granola-eating, counterculture, pot-smoking community.  The biweekly paper, launched on June 5, 1970, provided much needed info on how to survive in the city as a “hippie”.  If you happened to be a newly arrived Vietnam War deserter or draft dodger, GUERILLA was your contact lifeline.  The paper survived for three years.

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FISHEYE PHOTO – Guerilla people, 201 Queen Street East, http://www.onthebookshelves.com/guerilla.htm  . . . Salty journalism was a Guerilla specialty.  Below, a description of Yonge Street in the early seventies:

yonge51“Yonge Street lies spread-eagled in the middle of Toronto; leering at you through colour photographs of droopy-breasted go-go girls stuck on curtained bar windows and psychedelic posters of sullen naked women on book store doors; winking at you through thousands of neon-front electric eyes; calling you through sex-hard rock tunes roaring from crowded record stores . . . “

LOSTTORONTO1“There’s no escaping her (not if you’re a red-blooded all-Canadian stud); if she doesn’t get you one way, she’ll get you another.  She’s the meanest, sexiest, trickiest, smilingest, stubbornest hooker in town, Yonge Street.  She’ll promise you your wildest fantasy, wipe out a week’s wages in one evening, give you absolutely nothing in return, and do it so well that when it’s all over you’re left standing on the cold, hard sidewalk counting the hours till next pay day and another chance at her, Yonge Street.”

TORONTO & VANCOUVER, THE ‘HOUSING MARKET SISTERS’, KEEP RIGHT ON BOOMING

REALESTATE4For VANCOUVERITES a hot housing market is nothing new. But TORONTO, Canada’s largest city and the country’s prime growth centre, is rapidly catching up. New records are being set month-after-month in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) with no sign of a slowdown.  The low Canadian dollar and immigrant/foreign investment would no doubt account for some of this. John Pasalis, a TORONTO real estate broker, told the Toronto Star that “sales are off the charts. The market is insanely competitive (with buyers 10 and 20 deep lining up). The positive thing is it’s actually home buyers rather than speculators or flippers.”

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<PHOTO – a detached Toronto cottage, blogTO>