June 16, 2009 To Councillor Stintz: Havergal College recently became aware of the proposed digital signage at the corner of Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue West. The undersigned oppose this signage at any location in the city for the following reasons: 1.
We are concerned that digital signs pose a potential threat to public safety. Drivers in an already busy intersection will become distracted by a sign designed to capture their attention, and will remove their focus from the road. This may endanger the safety of students.
Toronto is a tourist destination in part because of its beautiful natural environment. Billboards take away from this image and digital billboards even more so. Billboards are banned on the Bayview Extension and the Don Valley Parkway because, 50 years ago, your predecessors had the foresight to designate these areas as “scenic.” Our definition of “scenic” has evolved from aesthetically pleasing to recognizing these areas as ecologically important. Toronto has formally designated ravine protection areas, and Ontario has enacted The Endangered Species Act to protect the habitat of flora and fauna. This broadening of definition and protection from harm reflect an evolution of society’s values that our environment must be sustainable and protected. These values must be reflected in the actions of our municipal government.
The ravine at Havergal College is a ravine-protected area. The attached petition, supported by research published by Purdue University, details the harmful effects of 24-hour lights on biodiversity and trees. You will note that the most vulnerable species of trees are the large leaf-bearing deciduous trees that the City of Toronto encourages property owners to plant and care for under both ravine stewardship and private tree bylaws. Toronto already has only 17% canopy coverage when we know the ideal is 35%. We must preserve the future we are stewarding, and must not be undermined by detrimental and shortsighted actions and policy which contradicts established research, existing bylaw, and Ontario statute protecting endangered species and their environment.
Toronto has always placed itself out in front of new trends and initiatives in architecture, urban planning, and business. Our city is a leader in its waste management policy and its support of sustainable business practices. We must demonstrate 21st century leadership by having the courage to say no to business practices, including digital signage, which will erode our natural capital. The argument that billboards will reduce vinyl production or that they will be powered by renewable energy is not
relevant. For the reasons outlined above, even an incrementally negative impact on the environment is too great an impact for our tree canopy to sustain. We will deliver the original petition—with 906 signatures—to your office on Friday, June 19th. In the meantime, the June 23rd meeting regarding the proposed digital signs in other areas of the city—specifically Victoria Park and Laird Dr. at Eglinton Avenue East, which are also adjacent to ravine areas— approaches quickly. We ask you to speak with a consistent voice on behalf of all Torontonians and oppose the new sign proposals. If you have any questions, we look forward to discussing this issue further.
Sincerely, The Undersigned (see attached)