East Yorkers and councillors alike are happy that the East York logo will not disappear as a proud symbol along city streets.
Council has decided that the symbol of the identity of the former municipality will remain on new and decommissioned street signs.
On Oct. 4. city council approved two motions to allow former municipalities to display their logos on street signs. Councillor Janet Davis’s motion pertained to East York, while Councillor Mary Fragedakis’s motion asked for logos to appear in all former municipalities. This came after the East York Historical Society and the East York Foundation presented the idea of revisiting the logo with local councillors.
“I’m a very proud Torontonian, but first and foremost I’ll always be a proud East Yorker,” said Justin Van Dette, 38, Treasurer of the Parkview Hills Community Association.
“Council made the right decision.”
This wasn’t Councillor Davis’s first attempt to preserve the East York logo. She had successfully returned it to the Civic Centre sign in her early days as councillor. She tried to get the logos back onto signs shortly after but was unsuccessful — until now.
“East York residents have continued to maintain pride in their local identity, and having a small logo on a street sign simply says, ‘We are proud of where we live and the community spirit that remains here,'” Davis said in an interview with the East York Observer.
Since 2007, 25,000 of the 80,000 street signs in Toronto have been replaced. A combined 600 to 800 signs would be replaced each year in Scarborough and East York at a total cost of $3,000-$4,000 per year.
Some remain concerned about issues of clutter and the violation of the Corporate Identity Policy — a policy put in place in 2000 on how to brand a new Toronto in terms of logos on street signs. However, as discussed in the council meeting, the City of Toronto logo will remain prominent on street signs.
“Having a corporate identity for the City of Toronto does not mean that you wipe out the identity associated with the previous municipalities,” Davis said.
In the council meeting, Davis noted how other global cities such as New York continue to acknowledge the identities of their boroughs “and not fall apart and yet the city of Toronto can’t. I think it reflects the heritage and will of our community to continue to have their former municipality reflected and respected on their signs.”
In an interview in late September with the East York Observer, Councillor Stephan Holyday, of Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre said that he was not opposed to the idea, however, the practicality of replacing the signs was a concern.
Holyday was one of the 10 councillors to vote against Davis’s motion.
“The real thing that stood out to me is that it’s not like we will go out next week and suddenly put logos on all the street signs,” Holyday said. “It will probably take decades for the logos to appear everywhere. People might get really upset with that.”
Holyday also mentioned clutter as a concern, especially when it comes to how far one could identify with a particular area of the city.
“I think about Etobicoke, and some people will say, ‘I’m from Long Branch’ or ‘I’m from Islington,’ because before the former municipalities, there were small boroughs and smaller villages,” he said. “That’s another piece of history…is somebody going to come along and say, ‘Well I want a sticker for that as well?'”
Those concerns were covered by the 2007 Street Name Signage Program, which established standards for the accessibility and legibility of legacy street signs while also allowing for BIA’s and other neighbourhoods to brand their area. Such legacy signs may still be seen all over the city, however, some had been replaced with a cleaner, modern version.
Because East York was one of the strongest in its opposition to amalgamation, the approval of the logo motion is a victory.
Once a part of the township of York, East York became its own borough in 1967. It was once Canada’s only borough and the smallest of municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto.
Anchored by the Harris provincial government in 1996, amalgamation stitched the six municipalities — East York, North York, York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and the City of Toronto — into one megacity in 1998.
For Van Dette, who remembers the tense atmosphere surrounding amalgamation, East York has a “small town in a big city” feel. He said that comes from those who continue to be rooted in volunteerism and community efforts through the East York Historical Society and other recreational clubs — something that goes beyond logos but demonstrates the great East York pride that remains.
While the subject of amalgamation remains a sensitive issue for some Torontonians, Councillor Davis added that this is anything but an act of resistance.
For her, this isn’t just about nostalgia. It is a step forward that acknowledges one Toronto. It is also a geographic reminder of the former municipality that recognizes our heritage.
“This is still what we have always called a city of neighbourhoods,” she said. “This is asserting that we still are a community that identifies as East York, both in terms of its place but also in terms of its community values.”