The Toronto Public Space Committee • 2001 – 2011


In a forest, the oldest trees have to fall and decompose to make space for new trees.  The non-profit sector shouldn’t be any different.  When an organization gets stale or stagnant, they should pack it in, and make space for new groups to flourish.

For ten years, the Toronto Public Space Committee served as an incubator for a handful of influential community projects such as Spacing magazine, Toronto Guerilla Gardeners, and Illegal Signs.  The TPSC won important battles at City Hall: protecting postering rights, keeping video advertising out of our subway cars, advocating for a new sign bylaw to reduce illegal billboards, and defeating the proposed “Monster” garbage ad-bins.

The group would meet as a ‘Committee’ every month, sharing stories and proposals from both our advocacy campaigns as well as our creative community projects, such as the Downtown De-Fence Project and the Human River.

I started the group in 2001 and then stepped back in 2005, handing the group over to an amazing team of volunteers who took over the various projects in the TPSC family.  They kept the ship afloat and expanded our volunteer base.

But while the spinoff projects all thrived as individual initiatives, the need for an overarching umbrella organization slowly disappeared.  Just as Spacing Magazine had separated from the TPSC in 2003, so did each of the other projects, one by one.  Truth be told, the TPSC stopped meeting as a “Committee” in 2009.    Even though the media occasionally refers to the “Toronto Public Space Committee”, the group has actually been dormant for quite some time.

And just as we are critical of advertising campaigns that are all flash and little substance, we too should hold ourselves to the same standard.

And so it is, that the TPSC name is being retired – not in mourning, but in celebration of all the sub-projects that were born out of the TPSC family.

The TPSC proved that a small group of people, with no funding and little experience, can make a real difference in the city.  I’d like to personally thank all the people who volunteered their time and energy into the various projects that grew out of the TPSC.

In the end, we were just trying to answer a simple question:  Whose Space is Public Space?  The answer, of course, is ‘ours’.  Our politicians often forget this simple fact and treat our streets, parks and alleyways as if they only belong to a select few.  It’s our responsibility to remind them. Loudly.

You can visit the archived TPSC website here.

And you can visit our major spin–off projects (2001 -2011) here:

Art Attack 
Downtown De-fence Project
Guerilla Gardeners
Human River
Spacing Magazine
Toronto Public Space Initiative (TPSI)

Note: The advocacy work of the TPSC will be carried on by the recently formed Public Space Initiative (TPSI).  Their first public event is tomorrow: a rally to protect public spaces from commercial naming rights.  More info here.

2 responses to “The Toronto Public Space Committee • 2001 – 2011

  1. Hey Dave!

    I got this letter from Rob Ford when I wrote in about Jarvis. I know you did some awesome work with John St. – I bet he’s wrong about Jarvis, too. Any chance you could do the same?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you.

    Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse. The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

    The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so. Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes – but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.

    As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time.

    Yours truly,

    Mayor Rob Ford
    City of Toronto

    >>> alex.leitch 06/25/11 08:59 >>>
    – Hide quoted text –
    Hey there, Mayor Ford!

    I hear from my buddy André with the giant art truck that you actually kinda
    like bicycles, but they’re not right for where you’re from. I get that! I
    used to try to bicycle a lot outside the core, and it wasn’t the best way to
    get around.

    Inside the core, though, different story. I can get anywhere in Toronto
    twice as fast as by car, and maybe 20 minutes faster than any TTC route,
    from East York out to Roncesvalles. Jarvis has been so much safer since we
    put the lanes in. I’ve had at least two bicycle hospitalizations, one for my
    face and the more recent for my hand, so I’m delighted any time any sort of
    bike markings go in.

    The Jarvis bike lane is _so_ much safer than just bicycling up and down
    Jarvis with no bike lane, so please do the right thing, and keep it in
    place. It doesn’t hurt anyone, that corridor has always been a nightmare to
    and from Rosedale anyway.

    Thanks for even a hint we might get separated bike lanes some time.

    ~ Alex L.

  2. On the same page Alex. I hope it stays put.

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