Alert: Monster LED Billboards about to appear across Toronto

(Note: I did an interview on CBC about this issue on Oct 7.  Listen here)

When Dundas Square was proposed, and public concern was raised about the proliferation of annoying LED billboards in the city we were told not to worry.  “This is ONLY for Dundas Square”, we were told.  “We won’t allow huge electronic billboards in other areas of the city”.

Well, guess what?  Once again, the incremental intrusion of the Outdoor Advertising industry is about to take a huge leap forward – and it’s NOT in Dundas Square.

A report is going to the Planning and Growth Management Committee at City Hall tomorrow, proposing SEVENTEEN new LED screens in Toronto, at ten locations.  These locations include many residential areas – including the neighbourhood I grew up in – York Mills and Leslie.

The residents of these neighbourhoods have NOT been properly notified, which violates the intent of Toronto’s new Sign Bylaw which is supposed to guarantee community consultation for corporate advertising in public spaces.  It also violates our Mayor’s commitment to ‘transparency’ and ‘listening to taxpayers’.

For now, these signs would only show ‘static’ digital images, rather than motion video.  But the images would change every few seconds, they would be incredibly bright, and would no doubt lead to motion video down the road.

The argument in favour of these new signs, is that the ad company will remove a whole bunch of regular billboards in exchange for these new video signs.  City staff have calculated that this will amount to an overall reduction in signage and help us “manage the impact and contribution of signage to the visual character of the City’s public realm.”  They are wrong.  Their math is horribly flawed because they are only looking at one factor: square feet of signage.  They have no system for measuring the impact of factors such as brightness and motion.  Personally, I’d rather have 100 static billboards in my neighbourhood – than a single LED billboard.

I would suggest a few ideas to the Committee:

1) Each of these LED billboards should have to go through the proper Variance procedure.

2) Affected residents should be notified and given ample opportunity to provide feedback.

3) If the project proceeds, it should move forward as a pilot project with a single sign, followed by a community opinion survey.

4) Any signs slated for removal, that do NOT have proper sign permits, should not be included in this staff report.  They should simply be removed, for violating Toronto’s sign bylaw.

5) Staff should investigate and report on any studies that look at the potential safety hazards of electronic signage in highways and arterials, in terms of distracting drivers.

(You can send your opinion to the Committee by clicking on the “submit comments” button at the top of THIS page.)

These electronic billboards are popping up across North America, and in many cases the community response has been very negative.  Let’s move slowly on this, and make sure that we’re taking the right steps, and giving residents a chance to participate in the process.  Otherwise we could find ourselves in a big mess, as other cities have found.


13 responses to “Alert: Monster LED Billboards about to appear across Toronto

  1. Better to nip this thing in the bud now.

  2. I feel like I saw a video/screen billboard along St. Clair East of Runnymede on Saturday afternoon.

  3. This is an exciting opportunity for us to follow in the footsteps of our friends in NYC and make art out of intrusive video billboards:

    • Hey Ocean,
      that NYC example is cool, but its kinda little apples to our big oranges — those screens are about 1/50th of what we have here I’d reckon.

  4. Fergus Kyle (LCol, ret'd)

    thanks to alerting by the CBC, I am incensed by the application of advertising scum to fill the Toronto skyline with their money-grubbing trash. It is intrinsic in the advertising field to steal, lie, cheat and otherwise worm their offal onto public spaces in order to enrich their sorry selves. As a passing motorist from the GBA (Greater Burlington area – encompassing Oshawa and any small encampments enroute) I am keen to vent my spleen on these parasites as soon as possible. Please advise me as to the addresses of the participants in the Toronto Plamnning and Growth Management Committee who are available to receive my vital scorn.
    That they would propose to ruin what few natural scenes Toronto has left by imposing their insidious distraction to my motoring can only result in my cancelling tickets to the opera, several movie theatres and the ballet – and I’m going to say so. ROM, so long; city hall with visiting tourists, goodbye; restaurants and Princess theatre, todaloo – the minute the cretins erect their first trash….. and I’m going to tell them so!

  5. keep in mind that video billboards are easier to sabotage with blunt objects…

  6. Thanks for the heads up, Dave. I’ve alerted my residents association as I think they might be upset for not having been consulted about the one in the York Mills/Leslie area.

    • Yeah, I can imagine!! I grew up there, and can’t quite see how a 35ft video screen fits into such a quiet neighbourhood.

  7. Pingback: Monster LED Boards • Public Consultation December 14 at City Hall | Mez Dispenser

  8. Pingback: Location, location, location!! Strategic Placement of LED Bilboards | Mez Dispenser

  9. Pingback: Arguing for Roadside Digital Billboards

  10. I have an annoying billboard in my area (St. Clair West and Caledonia) I don’t know how to remove it and it’s disrupting my sleep. This thing is on all night and the ads cycling through it changes the light in my room. I have my blinds but the light still shines through. This is really affecting how I sleep.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s