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'Street furniture' contract opposed

Proposed ad deal would turn city and suburbs into malls, say critics
Apr 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Donovan Vincent city Hall bureau
Groups opposed to awarding Astral Media Inc. the contract for Toronto's "street furniture" claim it will boost the amount of street advertising and reward a company they say flouts city bylaws.
They plan to take their concerns to the city council's executive committee tomorrow, with a demand that the whole proposals process that led to Astral's selection by city staff be scrapped and a new one begun.
Staff are recommending that the city enter negotiations with Astral, but Spacing magazine editor Matt Blackett and the Toronto Public Space Committee's Jonathan Goldsbie said last week that an agreement with Astral, expected to generate about $430 million in revenue for the city over 20 years, would result in downtown Toronto and the suburbs looking like huge outdoor malls.
They blame a "miscalculation" by city staff ĘC who had called for advertising levels to remain the same or even decrease ĘC and say advertising on street furniture (bus shelters, benches, trash bins, information pillars and the like) will actually increase by 10 to 12 per cent.
They also claim that Astral regularly erects large illegal billboards around the city. The streetscape shouldn't be managed by companies who have shown "habitual contempt" for city bylaws, said Rami Tabello, co-ordinator for IllegalSigns.ca, who joined the others at a city hall news conference yesterday.
The city's request for proposals stated that advertising on the new furniture shouldn't exceed the current advertising space: 198,200 square feet.
The public space advocates say the current space is actually only 177,958 square feet. In effect, the difference means Astral, if a deal is reached, would be able to put more advertising on the street.
But Andrew Koropeski, a transportation services director with the city, argues there won't be more advertising because a deal would control the amount of advertising per location.
Also, he said, the number of items allowed to carry ads will drop.
"You won't have multiple advertising on street furniture at one location, like now."
Alain Bergeron, a spokesperson for Astral, denied that his company is flouting city bylaws.