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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.