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Some Toronto graffiti can stay; panel decision on other ‘street art’ due Nov. 30

TORONTO – Some Toronto business owners have won approval to keep colourful street art on their buildings under the city’s new graffiti management plan.

Toronto’s graffiti panel has decided to allow the murals on private properties along Queen Street West, College Street, Vanauley Street and Bloor Street West.

The five-member board discussed for the first time on Friday whether nine murals should be designated as legal graffiti art.

A decision on the other pieces has been deferred until the panel’s next meeting on Nov. 30.

The creation of the panel was recommended in a 2011 city report on graffiti policy that said Toronto spends more than $1 million to clean up graffiti and enforce rules requiring property owners to remove it at their own expense.

Under the new graffiti management plan adopted last year, business owners are allowed to apply for approval to keep graffiti art on their buildings, which the city says is “differentiated from ‘tagging’ which is generally characterized by writing and with the act of vandalism.”

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James Lafazanos, a representative for the saved 899 College St. mural, said they’ve had to repaint the building a couple of times because of frequent tagging.

However, they decided to hire a skilled artist to paint a mural on the wall, including an image of a smiling, friendly-looking anime character – and they haven’t had a problem since.

“I’m all for artistic expression that makes people smile,” Lafazanos said.

Jane Perdue, a panel member and public art co-ordinator of the city’s urban planning division, said that owners facing the same situation should follow suit and consider all possible solutions.

“It’s worth mentioning that the owner has been proactive in trying to find a solution to being tagged,” said Perdue. “I think it’s commendable to be proactive in these situations.”