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Illegal Signs
September 7, 2007 7:10 AM   Subscribe

IllegalSigns.ca tracks illegal billboards in Toronto. You can use their Google Maps mash-up to find illegal signs in your neighbourhood.
posted by chunking express (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The first comment on this post explaining advertising abuse through mural applications is also pretty funny.
posted by chunking express at 7:18 AM on September 7, 2007


you know, I'm totally with the whole advertisement-sucks brigade (I even block out MeFi ads) but this seems massively anal-retentive x1000.

Don't people just ignore adverts anyway? Isn't that easier than digging up licenses and filing complaints with the local Office of Fuckoff-we-don't-care-about-you?
posted by Avenger at 7:58 AM on September 7, 2007


There are a lot of things that are easier than doing the right thing. And a lot of people, right or wrong, choose to do the easier thing. But if someone wants to do the right thing rather than the easy thing, I'm not going to complain, especially when I benefit.
posted by DU at 8:01 AM on September 7, 2007


Don't people just ignore adverts anyway?

I'm guessing people actually don't, otherwise advertisers would probably figure out a better way to blow their wads of cash.

I think its cool people are going to such lengths to take people to task. The site is interesting because it shows just how ineffectual Toronto's signage laws are.
posted by chunking express at 8:02 AM on September 7, 2007


This is pretty cool.

I wonder if there are any sites that give Google-Earth-like views of areas at night? I could imagine doing something like this very effectively to combat light pollution and go after violators of light ordnances, if you had the right satellite imagery.

Unnecessary "uplighting" (lights that shine upwards at an object and shine out into space rather than down at an object and towards the ground) is a major source of light pollution in suburban and rural areas, and a lot of places have laws against it (thanks to the Dark Skies people, in large part), but they're seldom enforced.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:07 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish they had a HOWTO up so the idea could spread to the US. Not that the laws are identical, but how do you even find out who owns a sign? And then look up a permit?
posted by DU at 8:21 AM on September 7, 2007


I love this. They're calling out misbehaving corporations and ineffectual municipalities plus ideally reducing the amount of signage that clogs the urban landscape. Wonderful.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:21 AM on September 7, 2007


This is kind of like taking on a herd of elephants armed only with a flyswatter, but I applaud their efforts.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:24 AM on September 7, 2007


I wish they had a HOWTO on...how to....track down who owns a sign, get the license, etc. Obviously it's going to vary a little in the US, but still.

The light pollution idea is a great one too.
posted by DU at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2007


This is kind of like the ultimate "I want change in this city, but I could never get elected..." blog.
posted by parmanparman at 8:29 AM on September 7, 2007


Wow.
Meanwhile, here in my neck o' the woods, you can pull an old semi-trailer onto your property, lease the sides out to anyone who wants to paint their message on, and you're good-to-go. All legal.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2007


The gold rush has been over for some time now that the word got out, but there was a time you could approach a building owner in New York and offer him $500 a month for the rights to that blank wall that he wasn't using anyway, then turn around and sell the contract for $10,000 a month.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:51 AM on September 7, 2007


Is there anything of this sort available to those of us south of the border?

I'll be impressed when they find a way to rig up lasers from orbit to fry anyone who affixes those damn "Ron Paul for President" bumperstickers to public property.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:35 AM on September 7, 2007


I'll be impressed when they find a way to rig up lasers from orbit to fry anyone who affixes those damn "Ron Paul for President" bumperstickers PERIOD. White supremacists ain't cool, yo.
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on September 7, 2007


They got some exposure on CBC radio last week, so maybe something will come out of this, which would be nice. Too bad the next municipal election is more than three years away.
posted by rocket88 at 9:56 AM on September 7, 2007


I've been to Taranna a couple of times this year and I drove right past a lot of those signs without reading them or giving them any thought or attention of any kind.

The thing that most interested me was a squat brown building sitting on an empty corner that I think was near Yonge (downtown) that was totally papered in posters advertising bands and whatnot. I suspect that was illegal, but it sure got my attention. I see no mention of it on illegalsigns.ca, but I guess they are only going after businesses that it is popular to hate - big ones.

That said, good on them for getting the City to actually enforce the law.
posted by chlorus at 10:05 AM on September 7, 2007


Well low hanging fruit and all that chlorus. Once all the 3m X 6m sized illegal signs that can be seen from hundreds of metres away are removed there will be time to get the letter sized sheets you have to be standing next to to read.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2007


Mitheral: indeed, but how many people actually pay attention to those big loud billboards? I guess this is probably a rhetorical question because if it didn't make them money, they wouldn't do it. Right?
posted by chlorus at 10:20 AM on September 7, 2007


For me it's not so much about paying attention as the distasteful clutter they are on the urban environment. Especially the lit and trivision varieties. As you said they are big and loud.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on September 7, 2007


Mitheral: indeed, but how many people actually pay attention to those big loud billboards? I guess this is probably a rhetorical question because if it didn't make them money, they wouldn't do it. Right?

Who knows?
posted by radgardener at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2007


DU: "I'll be impressed when they find a way to rig up lasers from orbit to fry anyone who affixes those damn "Ron Paul for President" bumperstickers PERIOD. White supremacists ain't cool, yo."

what
posted by Tennyson D'San at 10:46 AM on September 7, 2007


Well, if you have to be anal retentive about something, there are worse things to choose than trying to clean up your city.

I still think that billboards are a blight on the landscape, so I'm probably more than a bit biased in this area, though.
posted by quin at 10:55 AM on September 7, 2007


The Toronto Public Space Ctte. has advice on how to prevent new billboards from going up, too.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2007


Don't people just ignore adverts anyway? Isn't that easier than digging up licenses and filing complaints with the local Office of Fuckoff-we-don't-care-about-you?

illegalsigns.ca has already had an effect on city politics. Toronto recently unveiled three proposals for street furniture—bus shelters, benches, garbage bins, etc.—from three different companies. illegalsigns pointed out that at least one of the companies had illegal billboards and posters all over the city, and how responsible was it exactly for the city to give a major contract to a company that was blatantly ignoring city by-laws and not paying the city for the privilege of plastering ads all over the place?

You could argue that it's a lot easier to just ignore ads, but that doesn't really solve the problem of ad creep, does it? Besides which we have signage laws and a permit process for very good reasons, partially because the city knows there's a level of public advertising that is acceptable and a level that is not acceptable. (It's also partially because the city wants to make money, of course, but it's not the only reason.)
posted by chrominance at 11:13 AM on September 7, 2007


Blaming Toronto's suckiness on illegal billboards is like blaming the flies for making dog turds icky.

/Obligatory Hogtown jab, it's actually a pretty good idea, IMO
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:14 AM on September 7, 2007


Signs that ought to be illegal.
posted by nickyskye at 11:15 AM on September 7, 2007


nickyskye: that blog is crawling with linkspam.
posted by chlorus at 11:51 AM on September 7, 2007


Wow, the snarking in this thread makes me want to vomit. Somebody works through the system to try and improve their city and people take the time to cry about it?

Also, when did attention to detail automatically become "anal-retentiveness"? If you're dealing with a local government, you have to be that focused or they'll weasel out of it somehow. This isn't as sexy as Billboard Liberation but it's exponentially more productive. Sometimes you have to go into grown-up mode to get things done.
posted by craniac at 12:01 PM on September 7, 2007


Somebody works through the system to try and improve their city and people take the time to cry about it?

I notice that while the claim is that it's easier to "just ignore it" applies to advertising, it doesn't seem to apply to people who want to stop advertising. If you think the anti-billboard folk are wasting their time, why not "just ignore" them rather than flame them?

what
posted by Tennyson D'San


Ron Paul is a white supremacist.
posted by DU at 12:05 PM on September 7, 2007


This is timely. I'm filling out my own paperwork for a sign permit (a small sign for a home business) and have had my mind blown reading the extensive regulations on signage in my home city of Kitchener, just an hour west of Toronto. It all seems onerous and absurd, until you actually look outside and witness the proliferation of these silent but gaudy trumpets. I applaud this guy's efforts. And I'm making my own sign smaller, too. Not that it was big to begin with, but really, I don't actually need anything more than a nameplate.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2007


Ron Paul's a bit of a nutter, though he does have quite a few sensible positions like WE SHOULD NOT BE IN IRAQ (compare to , but the most I've seen proved on that matter is that he didn't keep good enough watch on his newsletter writer who then put out the racist newsletter.

What's sad is even though the guy's rather nuts it would probably be better for the country/world to have him elected than most of the "major candidates" of either party.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2007


*(compare to say, Hillary's or Obama's carefully worded positions that basically say "we'll stop fucking up Iraq (as much)")
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2007


To be on topic, I wonder how likely it is or how quickly I would be shut down for putting up an illegal billboard compared to how likely or quickly it is Clear Channel or whoever would be shut down.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2007


If only they could send a guy out with a giant pressure washer to get rid of the billboards the same way they do the illegal posters, Mitheral. THAT would be awesome.
posted by SassHat at 2:00 PM on September 7, 2007


This billboard, allegedly dimmer now, is really atrocious.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:18 PM on September 7, 2007


Terffic blog/FPP. Thanks.
posted by dobbs at 2:38 PM on September 7, 2007


From dobbs link:

Due to a malfunction last week, it didn't adjust and so evening drivers were bombarded with the level of brightness programmed for daylight,


I was wondering WTF do you need to have the sign illuminated during the day for, when I realized that it's one of those electronic jobbers. You know, one of the kind that I'm going to eventually hack into so that I can play Halo 3 the way it was meant to be played.

Outdoors.
posted by quin at 2:48 PM on September 7, 2007


When I was testing the ABC Times Square Studios SuperSign, I ran a brief sequence of single frames of full on red, green, blue flashes as a burn in. Somehow the scheduler screwed up and played it for a few hours at 3am. Bunch of cabbies called the police and said there was going to be an accident if someone didn't fix it right away.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:59 PM on September 7, 2007


SassHat writes "If only they could send a guy out with a giant pressure washer to get rid of the billboards the same way they do the illegal posters, Mitheral. THAT would be awesome."

I've got a rail saw, who's got bail money?(*)

(*)Note to members of the local RCMP Deattachment: Not a real offer, I'm not nearly crazy enough to become an urban steel lumberjack, clandestine or otherwise.
posted by Mitheral at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


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