Streetlamps and other poles in the Church and Wellesley Village may soon be stripped forever of colourful posters advertising community meetings, dance parties and other local events.
Some community members have been pushing for the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) to stop all such postering and “clean up the street.”
At a meet-and-greet Sept 24 at Big Johnson’s, co-chair Avery Pitcher told representatives from local businesses that the poles may soon be covered with eight-foot-high wrapping.
“They are covered with a substance, almost like a sandpaper grid, so that posters can’t adhere to them,” she says. “They will be solid colours in the rainbow theme. That will add colour to the street and provide a cleaner environment. We are trying to clean up all of the ratty, tatty paper.”
Local DJ Craig Dominic, who is also Xtra and Fab‘s distribution and community relations coordinator, says the move could be a problem for community activists, event organizers and DJs who depend on posters to advertise local events.
“We need to be able to get the word out in as many ways as possible,” he says. “These events bring people to the Village. They bring money to the Village and a sense of community to the Village. The BIA may be hindering that by doing this.”
Pitcher says city poles are not the place to advertise.
“We need to create more mediums to communicate our events in the city and our area,” she says. “But postering, I think, is a dying medium. It really makes an area look grungy.”
Pitcher says the BIA encourages anyone looking to promote their events to advertise on the BIA website or use the community event boards provided by the city.
There are two community event boards in the Church and Wellesley Village.
“Posters can make the area look overloaded,” she says. “When the posters are out of date, people don’t come back and take them down. They just keep postering on top of one another. It just doesn’t make the Village look as clean as we want it to look.
“The city wants to see our area vibrant, clean, clear, safe and beautiful,” she adds.
Dominic disagrees. He says there are better ways to clean up the Village, such as installing more garbage and recycling containers, increasing street cleaning and encouraging public art.
“By considering community advertising ‘trash’ is in itself a problem,” he says. “What they are doing is whitewashing the street, whitewashing queer meeting places. They are taking away space we use to communicate with one another and find out what’s going on in the neighbourhood.”
The new pole wraps, expected to arrive in March, will cover 18 poles on Church Street. They will cost about $24,000. BIA manager David Wootton says the wraps are part of a cost-share program with the city, which is paying half.
Wootton says funding for the wraps has not yet been confirmed. “We won’t know for sure until our budget is approved in March. I think we have a good chance because we are trying to improve the streetscape.”
Other neighbourhoods in the city have already implemented similar initiatives to curb postering.
Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says the number one complaint she hears from residents is that the posters are a nuisance and make the area look “dirty.”
Wong-Tam says the city provides designated “community boards” that allow people to post notices.
“Right now, businesses are not permitted to poster. There’s an anti-postering bylaw when it comes to commercial operation,” she says. “What stops corporations like Nike from wrapping the pole in a banner? It doesn’t matter if it’s a small business or a big business.
“What I’m hearing from residents and businesses in the area is that they don’t want the postering. It makes the street look dirty and unkept . . . The community boards are the proper place to put community notices.”
Wong-Tam says the BIA is smart to invest in beautification.
“In 2014, when the eyes of the gay world are on Church Street for WorldPride, what image will we project?” she says. “There’s no doubt we’ll host a great party. But what else will Toronto be about? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Pole wraps have already helped reduce postering in other areas of the city, she says. In Greektown, poles are wrapped in Greek flags.