TEYCC Billoard Proposal

The Toronto Public Space Initiative successfully advocacted to defeat and stall a large number of billboard proposals at TEYCC, including LEDs and vinyl billboards.

TPSI is concerned about billboards because they can have negative impacts on neighbourhoods, public space, property values, and traffic safety in some cases, among other concerns.

Specifically, the January 10 2012 TEYCC meeting heard proposals for 20 new billboards (not including both sides) that would have required variances from the Sign Bylaw to be installed. Essentially, the billboard company ‘Strategic Outdoor’ was requesting that they be given formal permission to ‘get around’ the letter and spirit of the Sign Bylaw that regulates billboards and mitigates many of the concerns that TPSI and communities have with regard to billboards.

Fortunately, thanks to our advocacy efforts, the 3 LED variance requests (more if you count additional sides) were rejected by TEYCC, and finally City Council on Feb 6 2012.

It is the current understanding of TPSI that the remaining vinyl billboard variance applications were deferred at the TEYCC February 14 2012 meeting to allow the Committee time to receive legal advice on the matter, as the company behind the proposal may have threatened legal action against the City should its proposals be rejected due to what may have been a procedural error on behalf of the City in the initial stages of the application which would have allowed it to guard itself against such action. In the opinion of TPSI this appears to be a underhanded manipulation of the law by the company behind the billboard proposals in an effort to thwart Council’s will.

The TPSI Advocacy Division continues to monitor the situation.

Background:

For a full list of the billboard variance applications see this TEYCC meeting agenda, and see items TE12.99 to TE12.119

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O’Keefe Laneway and St Enochs Square

TPSI and ING DIRECT partnered to complete a community design project along with 8-80 Cities and Gehl Architects.

View Larger Map

The innovative project sought to revitalize the O’Keefe laneway and St Enochs Square between Yonge and Victoria St., near Yonge-Dundas Square by transforming the derelict space into a vibrant public space through a community design process.

Successful precedents in Melbourne, Australia, suggest that these overlooked spaces can become hubs of pedestrian friendly community activity, incorporating greenery, public art, festivals, and even small scale retail such as coffee shops and flower shops,  supporting density and economic development.

The community consultation project is now complete. Those interested in seeing the results should contact 8-80 Cities directly. Unfortunately, construction is expected to keep the laneway closed until at least 2015.

This project is partially funded by the Ontario Government.

Background
ING DIRECT nominated O’Keefe Ln/St Enochs Sq to be part of the 8-80 Cities Make a Place for People project that aims to renew 8 locations in Ontario through a community-design process. The laneway is one of two sites chosen to work with celebrated Danish architecture firm Gehl Architects. The final community-led plan for the space will be made publicly available and include visualizations and recommendations based on input from various groups. The overview of the Make a Place for People project is here:

8-80 Cities Make a Place for People project

ING Direct
Gehl Architects

 

ON Gov
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Real Estate Services Billboard Proposal

Thanks to TPSI advocacy and the foresight of numerous Councillors the January 30th 2012 Growth Management Committee amended a Real Estate Services staff proposal to put out an RFP to secure a third party agent to review the City’s current sign/billboard locations and contracts on City property, and to identify additional sites for outdoor advertising on municipal properties, without involving Council in the final decision making process.

TPSI was concerned that the passage of the proposal as it was would have lead to a proliferation of additional billboards, including LEDs, without proper oversight by Council, public consultations, or community and safety standards to screen them.

TPSI was also concerned about the financial arrangements of the proposal, which requested authority to hire a consultant (an advertising company) for $150,000 to secure additional advertising on City property and to pay for this budget increase with ‘projected’ revenue increases of $150,000 from additional advertising. The City currently generates approximately $137,000 from signs, calling into question the validity and feasibility of the projected revenue increase without a massive influx of new billboards. In addition, there appears to have been a lack of comparison between the minimal revenue increase (theoretically only in future years after the consultant is paid) against billboard ‘costs’ to the community, residential property values, traffic safety, future development, and the aesthetic appeal and desirability of the city to residents, visitors, and tourists. That is, if any additional revenue would be generated at all.

TPSI secured the following amendments that help to mitigate the troubling proposal. While not perfect, the amendments are positive. The TPSI Advocacy Division will continue to monitor developments on this matter.

4. City Council request the Chief Corporate Officer, prior to exercising the authority given in Recommendation 1, to bring forward the RFP  scope of work to the Government Management Committee for review and approval.

5. City Council direct that the number of locations be limited to 29.

6. City Council direct that the proposed RFP contain the following provisions:

a. The intent is to review and renew the existing sign agreements to achieve the market value.

b. Any proposed changes to the existing portfolio be in compliance with the Harmonized Sign By-law.

c. The strategy provide opportunities for public consultation and input from local Councillors. 

7. City Council direct that the successful vendor shall agree not to take on any client who is applying for a sign on City property while under contract to the City, or for two years after completion of the contract.

8. City Council direct that any further locations be forwarded to the Government Management Committee for approval.

9. City Council direct that the final report of the consultant be presented to the Government Management Committee for discussion.

Background:
Government Management Committee Agenda Item GM10.8

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Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden

TPSI is partnered with the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden Group to support the creation of a new public garden at the corner of Dundas and Roncesvalles, in Toronto’s west end. The Peace Garden project has the potential to beautify and green an otherwise under-utilized section of public space at an important gateway to the community while recognizing local history and heritage.

Please visit the Official Website for more information, photos, and opportunities to get involved.

The Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden Group is a committee of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association and community partners including the Roncesvalles Village BIA, the Roncesvalles Historical Society, Roncesvalles Rewnewed, the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto, and the Toronto Public Space Initiative.

The Project has the support of the City of Toronto’s Museum Services, Public Realm Services in the City of Toronto’s Transportation Department, local Councillor Gord Perks, the Binational Peace Garden Trail Network, and the Metis Fiddler Quartet.

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