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May 20 Bulletin

20 May 2020 3:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


The Scourge of Graffiti

As you’ve ventured out recently to walk the streets of the Annex, have you noticed anything different? Resident Nicole Stoffman certainly has – and she’s on a campaign to rid our neighbourhood of the increased incidence of graffiti, or, as she prefers to name it, “vandal tagging,” in order to distinguish it from "graffiti mural art" which she loves. 

In Toronto, vandal tagging is a crime. It might come as a surprise to you, but property owners are required by law to remove graffiti within 72 hours – or 24 hours if it is deemed hate and/or gang-related. If an owner fails to comply, the city will do the removal, and the cost of the work will be added to their property tax. However, according to Heather Leger in Mike Layton’s office, “The City pursues compliance as far as they can before they resort to laying fines or taking remedial action themselves.”

Nevertheless vandal tagging costs our local businesses upwards of $10,000 yearly to remove, and taxpayers pay an even higher bill in the hundreds of thousand of dollars according to Toronto police.

Some may consider this a mere nuisance. But as Jim Jacobs pointed out at a graffiti summit, his mother, Jane, always said that property neglect is the beginning of a neighbourhood in decline. Simply put, graffiti that is not removed indicates that no one cares about the state of the community.

So how do we take back control of our neighbourhood? This was amply illustrated to the south of us by the efforts of Stephen Simpson, recipient of the HVRA Community Builder Award for his work in bringing vandal tagging under control. As he says, “It’s a fixable problem. It’s relatively easy to manage if we just have the initiative.”

In the short term, we need to erase the tags. Paint them over. Sand or power wash them off. And if you’re dealing with oil paint on concrete there’s even a product called “Elephant Snot” available on line from St. Paul, Minnesota to liquidate the unsightly tags. For those reluctant to cross-border shop, there’s also WD40, oven cleaner, and Goof Off to add to your arsenal.

Remember that vandalism graffiti is like litter: remove it from your property and urge your neighbours to do the same. And broaden your reach. Focus on the spots that bother you the most, that you pass every day, and ask owners for permission to let you paint out or scrub away the offending stains. Get yourself a can of white exterior primer for the job, and invite property owners to repaint if they want to colour match.

In the long term, there’s always the possibility of encouraging true artists to decorate the large canvases of garages and walls and fences. To that end, local homeowners might want to connect with StART artist directory, https://bit.ly/3dMY6Nn & the StART Support Mural Program: https://bit.ly/364ZxUI. The mural program is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, but you can still reach out to the artists through the directory. 

Official signs are prime targets for vandal taggers.

A StART sponsored mural in Harbord Village

Who's Calling the Shots? 

Working with Councillor Cressy, the ARA approached City staff all the way back in 2016 to look at measures to help deter speeding and improve the pedestrian environment on Spadina Road between Dupont and Bloor. As a short-term measure, staff suggested that the existing pavement markings could be adjusted by narrowing the lane widths as much as possible. The long-term plan was to use the space provided by the urban shoulder to permanently widen the sidewalks along the corridor and narrow the roadway.

Flash forward to 2020. Implementation of the short-term pavement marking plan has been deferred in response to the on-going TTC construction work at Spadina and Dupont as well as possible watermain work scheduled on Spadina between Dupont and Lowther this year.

Councillor Layton asked staff to include this pedestrian improvement work in the upcoming watermain work on multiple occasions, but was ultimately told (in February 2019) it was not possible to include it in the project scope as E&CS were planning to tender in November 2019 and commence construction in early 2020. They further noted that the schedule could not be delayed as it was being coordinated with TTC elevator work at Lowther Ave as well as a planned bridge rehabilitation project north of Dupont, both of which were being scheduled following the watermain work.

In January 2020, Mike again requested that the sidewalk expansion and lane narrowing be included in the tender as it had not yet gone out. Despite repeated requests, Mike received the following response: "Transportation Services and Toronto Water staff have reviewed your request to reconstruct and widen the sidewalks on Spadina Avenue (Bloor Street West to Dupont Street) as part of the upcoming watermain replacement work. Staff have determined that deferring the waterman replacement to allow for the scale of change in the current scope of work is not possible as the time to undertake a reconstruction along Spadina Avenue is unknown. The latest condition data for the roadway shows it is in good condition and no rehabilitation is currently programmed or planned."

So there you have it: we and our Councillor are committed to making Spadina Road more pedestrian friendly. The Planning Department is on board. But the engineers at Transportation Services now seem to be the ones planning public spaces. And they certainly don't appear to be listening to the wishes of residents, despite our Councillor's efforts on our behalf. 

It seems even Transportation Services staff are unaware of the difference between Spadina Avenue (which runs south of Bloor) and Spadina Road (pictured here, running to the north).

Notes and Queries

·         The City of Toronto is developing an Island Park Master Plan and therefore seeking input from Toronto residents about their experiences of the Island and any changes they would like to see made there in the future. Willow Cabral and her colleagues in a studio program at UofT have developed a Google Form survey for people to share their experiences and are also organizing a ZOOM Public Participation conference on Wednesday, May 27th at 7 pm.  If you are interested in participating in either the survey  or the ZOOM conference, feel free to contact Willow directly at willowcabral@gmail.com.

·         According to Kayla Chambers, Community Liaison Worker for YWCA Davenport, the women’s shelter at 348 Davenport Road has recently moved to a temporary location on Queen St East in order to support social distancing for residents and staff. However, construction at the Davenport Shelter will continue as scheduled for the next 12 to 13 months. If you have any questions about the construction, please reach out to Christine Wallace at Christine.Wallace@toronto.ca.

·         Little free libraries are a familiar sight in the Annex. However, there have been queries as to whether these might have morphed into “little free pantries” in response to the COVOID-19 pandemic. As this Global News item attests, these pantries have sprung up successfully in other parts of the city: https://globalnews.ca/news/5469185/little-free-pantry-canada/. If any Annex resident is contemplating such an initiative, they should go to http://www.littlefreepantry.org/frequently-asked-questions for advice on how to begin.

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