Billboards are a visual blight on our neighbourhoods. Each and every billboard is blocking a slice of the city behind it. Most block the sky, some block heritage architecture, others block precious green space.
What most people don't know, is that many commercial billboards in Toronto are actually illegal signs, without any proper permits.
Dave Meslin, a 47-year-old Canadian activist, is known for his campaigns to defend public space from commercial interests. For 15 years, he has been lobbying Toronto to remove illegal billboards from neighbourhoods across the city. He assembles a team of volunteers, including his 11-year-old niece, to gather intelligence and strategise on how to bring down the billboards. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to reclaim a local green space. As the Billboard Squad clashes with power, bureaucracy and inertia, Dave grapples with the emotional complexities of activism. The Billboard Squad is a film by Cat Mills and Felicity Justrabo.
We're pushing the City of Toronto to enforce their own bylaws, and protect our public spaces. One location in particular (Bathurst street, just north of Davenport, near the Tollkeepers Park), has been on our radar for a while. City staff admitted that the billboards have no permits, and they promised to remove the signs. That was TEN years ago. (You can read about that fiasco on the Spacing blog: Part 1, Part2, Part 3.)
Now, we've decided to throw the net a little wider. We're compiling a list of ground-level billboards in Toronto - signs that are not attached to any building or structure. They're just stuck in the ground.
If you want to get involved, send an e-mail to BillboardSquad@publicspace.ca
And if you see any locations we've missed on our map, please let us know!