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Should Toronto mark off public and private space?

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 21, 2014

Private property torontoIn light of Brookfield Properties' highly publicized bike confiscation scandal last week ("Bikegate,") and the same company's manhandling of a busker, councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is asking the city to look at the possibility of marking the often invisible line between public and private property.

If you recall, Brookfield Properties, the owner of the Hudson's Bay Centre at Yonge and Bloor, removed a bike that was legally chained to a street fixture on public property and placed it in storage--no note of explanation. The incident was, of course, a PR disaster.

There's some precedent for demarcating public and private: New York City property owners occasionally mark such lines with metal plaques or discreet strips etched into the pavement. Toronto property owners sometimes do the same, but there are no rules requiring boundary markers.

toronto public private spaceConfusion tends to arise when buildings are set back from the street, Wong-Tam writes in her city council motion. At the Hudson's Bay Centre there is a portion of sidewalk in front of the building, which is technically private property. Brookfield staff wrongly assumed--perhaps because there's no clear marker--that their portion of the sidewalk was larger (it's also possible the security detail saw itself as unofficial by-law officers).

Late last month, the city unveiled the first in a series of privately owned publicly-accessible space (POPS) markers at CityPlace. The little plaques, which are the brainchild of councillor Josh Matlow, label spaces that are not owned by the city but are still freely accessible, in effect blurring the line between public and private.

The motion, which is backed by cllr. Matlow, is up for debate at next week's city council meeting.

Should the city draw a line in the sand, so to speak, between public and private space?

Photo by marina~ in the blogTO Flickr pool.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



Marc / August 21, 2014 at 01:30 pm
Common courtesy would suffice.
iSkyscraper / August 21, 2014 at 01:53 pm
Private property owners tend to do this without any push from the city. In New York all privately owned spaces have now had signs with fine print added by nervous Landlords following the Occupy Wall Street protests, in order to make it clear to potential protesters which parts are private land and the rules of conduct.
Living Toronto / August 21, 2014 at 02:33 pm
Most people don't realize that many places are public but seem private. Some identification would be welcome and we can all enjoy spaces that we are subsidizing with our tax dollars.

p / August 21, 2014 at 08:23 pm
love it.. hope it goes through
James / August 22, 2014 at 06:16 am
Since private properties are moving to having more security guards who are increasingly acting like police against passersby, yes, this is needed.
Steve replying to a comment from Living Toronto / August 22, 2014 at 08:15 am
My understanding is POPS are are built, designed and maintained by the owners of the property.
Bettie / August 22, 2014 at 10:41 am
There's something very wrong with the security at that corner. It's the only place I've ever been hassled by security for taking photographs and I was only on the public sidewalk and was photographing people and cars, not Brookfield property.
Pickelo (@gopickelo) / August 22, 2014 at 01:17 pm
We actually walk by there almost every day. Wouldn't want our bikes removed ...

Anyway, this article has been Pickelo'd! "Should Toronto mark off public and private space?"
skye / August 22, 2014 at 03:18 pm
It's fairly generous or diplomatic to suggest that Brookfield and their Security Company at this location do not know where the property line is. It was just convenient for them to feign ignorance until now.

The busker they moved was outside of their property line to begin with, as were the bikes they illegally removed.

Identifying property lines would make it harder for Property Management Companies and Security Firms to abuse their powers, which some will clearly do every chance they get.

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