Do we want a 48-foot LED sign?

Driving east on Eglinton Ave., you pass Brentcliffe Rd., and as you proceed down the hill toward Leslie St. you suddenly notice a large electronic advertising sign located ahead, on the south side of Eglinton just before the CPR railway overpass.

Or, you’re driving south down the hill that is Leslie St. toward Eglinton, and you notice the flashing billboard to your left, across the street.

The sign is 48 feet wide and 14 feet high, lit with LEDs.

You’re trying to observe the traffic around you, the lane changers and overtakers, the traffic signal at Leslie. But you can’t help noticing that the digital images on the sign change, from one advertisement to the next to the next, every 10 seconds. Is this a distraction? Does it reduce your concentration on the road and traffic conditions? Does it make the situation unsafe?

This was the main concern raised by LPOA directors and members of the public who attended the March 5 LPOA board meeting, in response to a detailed presentation by Stephen McGregor and Roy Dzeko of CBS Outdoor, the company hoping to erect that sign.

There were other concerns. The area in question is a natural valley, abutting one of the city’s largest parks. That portion of Eglinton is a major approach into our community. It was noted that this is one of the few spaces in the city free of marketing.

Others asked, why does CBS Outdoor want such a large sign? The maximum size currently permitted is 10 feet by 20, less than half of that of the proposed sign.

Questions were also raised about the visibility and intrusiveness of the proposed sign by residents of the Carrington Place and Rountree condominiums on Leslie, where the Inn on the Park used to be. These condos mainly face south and east. The constant flickering of bright lights and colours on an LED billboard, in full view,  would be an unwelcome sight from their windows.

They would also be an environmental distraction for the area’s abundant wildlife, noted another attendee. The relative brightness of the signage was a big issue.

What about the precedent this could set, one director asked:  if one such sign were approved in this location, would others more easily get approved as well?

There are similar signs along the Gardiner Expressway west of the city, but highway traffic is not comparable to street traffic, noted another.

The city is contemplating a new bylaw regarding signs, and is looking for public input. To judge by the questions and comments at our meeting, public input will not likely be very positive toward such signage, especially in park or residential settings.

At least one major opinion poll has shown that a majority of drivers find electronic signs distracting.  Moreover, there is a new awareness of the dangers of distracted driving in general, for example the prohibitions and stiff fines for using hand-held electronic devices while operating a car.

We can understand why CBS Outdoor wants a sign in this location. It would be seen by thousands of drivers daily, and, once the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is built, by many more thousands of transit users. But it’s the wrong place for such a sign. The LPOA board voted to oppose this CBS Outdoor application when it goes to City Hall.

About Carol Burtin Fripp 140 Articles
Carol Burtin Fripp is Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, and is Chair of the LRA's Traffic Committee. Over the years, she has served on numerous East York and City task forces. Now a retired television producer (TVO and CBC), she writes Leaside Life's monthly LRA column, and has created a daily international current affairs newsletter read from Newfoundland to New Zealand.