And, yes, it’s a no-no.
A reader brought the parking spots to the attention of the Star by emailing a photo, taken June 29, which shows two neatly demarcated spaces next to each other and blocked off by a small table with a note attached to it, warning of wet paint.
The spaces in front of two homes on Balsam Ave. appear just long enough for two small-sized vehicles, and are bookended by driveways.
Done in white paint, the spaces look just like ones on busier city roads. But these stand out on Balsam, where, like in many quiet residential streets, there are no city-drawn lines.
Neighbours, who say the street can be a mess with drivers hunting for a free spot during the bustling summer months, say the impromptu spots mysteriously showed up over the Canada Day long weekend.
Sharon Woynarski, who has lived on Balsam for about two years, has her suspicions about who painted the line, but can’t say for sure. She discovered the spaces after getting home on June 30.
“It was kind of weird,” she said, noting how the rest of the street remained untouched. She fears it could pit neighbours against each other.
Diana Ramirez welcomed the Band-Aid remedy for what she says is a parking debacle that plagues her street each summer.
“Some people don’t care about other drivers and park in the middle, taking up a spot for other people,” said Ramirez, who lives in front the spots. She says she’d like to see more neighbours delineate where people can park.
“There are lots of people coming looking for a spot, so when people park properly it’s good,” she said. “It should stay, because it helps everybody.”
Neighbours said the spots were marked with two orange cones to keep drivers out until the paint dried.
George Teed, who has lived in the area for 25 years, says the issue has the potential “to start a real hornets nest” with the city and among neighbours.
“Parking is a major issue here,” he said. “In the Beach area, I think (outlined parking spaces) would be very helpful, especially on the weekends.”
He said added it could also help residents who have access to street parking. But, he said he won’t be lending a hand to paint any spots near his house anytime soon.
In a statement to the Star, the City of Toronto said painting lines by members of the public on the roadway is not allowed, and if caught could be “subject to enforcement” under the Toronto Municipal Code for “fouling and obstructing streets.”
It falls under the same section of the code that forbids riding a pack animal on city streets, unless it is police or military doing the business, or otherwise approved by the city.
A penalty is only issued if a bylaw officers catches a member of the public in the act of painting, the city said. If caught red-handed — or white-handed, as would be this case — bylaw officers can issue a set fine of $200, plus a $40 surcharge.
Anyone who sees someone painting parking lines can lodge a complaint by calling 311, “and a service order will be created to have the lines removed by City of Toronto crews,” the city said.
The Balsam parking spots is only the most recent instance of residents taking municipal matters into their own hands.
Back in 2017, a group of Regal Heights residents led by a civic advocate Dave Meslin temporarily modified a confusing three-way intersection near St. Clair and Oakwood Aves.
Where three roads intersected had no painted markings or sidewalk the south side. There were stop signs, but residents said they were hard to spot.
So, using chalk and a mixture of cornstarch and water, they drew bright lines on the road and filled the space with fallen leaves to create a faux island.
While the installation itself was not fully sanctioned by the Regal Heights Residents Association because of liability concerns, members passed a motion requesting city staff conduct a feasibility study.
“We’re not trying to permanently change our intersection on our own as nonengineers,” Meslin said at the time. “But just for a few days, we were trying to show how it could look differently (and) to try and build community support, and then get the councillor to move a motion.”
Meslin’s experiment garnered plenty of buzz on social media — something, he said during an interview at the time, is indicative of an “eagerness for a new kind of hands-on citizen engagement.”
Kyle Ashley, a road safety advocate and former parking officer with the Toronto Police Service, says this kind of “vigilantism” is a common theme in Toronto.
“I definitely remember in my time working with parking enforcement that people loved to modify signage, point arrows in different directions, and that kind of thing,” he said.
But Ashley says the trend is also a symptom of a city with poorly funded road infrastructure.
“When you don’t invest in city services with proper taxation, this is the result you get,” he said.
“This whole issue of people modifying signage or doing their own-road repairs is a bigger reflection of living in … a city with property taxes that are below the median of the rest of the GTA. We’re operating on an austerity budget, and it’s stretching us thin.”
With files from Jacob Lorinc
Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin