Toronto Graffiti Plan

Toronto's new graffiti plan is here, but will it help?

Up for consideration at the June 29th meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee is a new plan to tackle graffiti in Toronto. I've been very curious to see what sort of strategies the City would adopt to deal with what has become a controversial issue in the wake of Mayor Rob Ford's decision to crackdown on the presence of graffiti in the city, but after a first read I'm skeptical that the new plan will make much of a difference. Which, if true, would be a bigger problem than one might think. Revealed in the report is the fact that the City of Toronto spends more than $2.2-million a year on graffiti removal.

Early on in the crackdown, it became clear that the one of the problems facing the City is that the current by-law's distinction between graffiti and an art mural is inadequate guidance for Municipal Licensing and Standards enforcement officers. Although not many murals were targeted, the ambiguous nature of what constituted a "designated surface" was bound to cause problems (which it eventually did). In light of this (and the renewed interest in graffiti abatement in general), MLS was tasked with putting together a new plan that would better distinguish "good graffiti" (i.e. murals solicited by property owners or BIAs) and bad (tags and vandalism).

It remains to be seen if this plan will be successful in this regard (and if it will approved by the committee and council). While some of the ideas will help to ensure that community-endorsed murals stick around, it doesn't represent a radical departure from the current strategy. Perhaps more importantly, it also remains to be seen how the new plan will help property owners, who still have to foot the bill when a removal notice is issued. As much as the quest to make the role of enforcement more straightforward for MLS officers makes sense, there's no guarantee that this will lead to a drop in the proliferation of graffiti around the city.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GRAFFITI MANAGEMENT PLAN

The report recommends that...

  • Toronto Police implement a new anti-graffiti education program in schools and to develop ward-specific graffiti management strategies.
  • A new centralized office be created to handle all matters pertaining to graffiti.
  • The City foster private sector investment in an "arts-based program to create and manage graffiti art and other street art across the city."
  • A program be created to "encourage Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and other businesses to fund and commit to long-term private graffiti removal contracts."
  • An online database be used to catalogue legal/commissioned street art.
  • The decision as to what constitutes an art mural be turned over to a panel of City staff rather than Community Council.

To read the plan in its entirety, follow this link.


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