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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Beach or The Beaches?


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The Beach or The Beaches?
by Josh Hume

An old civic-pride controversy is flaring up again in Toronto’s east end. The Beaches Business Improvement Association is asking local residents to vote on the long-standing question: Is the neighborhood called “The Beach” or “The Beaches?” The debate has resurfaced as a result of the BIA’s plan to erect street signs featuring a new design that will identify the name of the area. Neil MacDonald, the association’s chair, defends the need to settle on a name to put on the signs, saying “our job as a BIA is to market our district. That includes improving our visual identity, and a great way to do that is with street signs. Many other BIAs have highlighted the historic or cultural character of their communities with attractively designed street signs, and we would like to do the same here.”

Both sides of the debate have their proponents. The faction defending the singular “Beach” moniker is made up mostly of long time residents who claim that this has been the traditional name for the area for generations, and is the more historically correct title. New and younger residents tend to side with the “Beaches” faction, who are more likely to know the area as it is commonly known throughout the GTA. Supporters of the pluralized name also point out that the neighborhood was amalgamated in 1926 from four distinct beach districts: Woodbine, Kew, Balmy and Scarboro – each of which will be identified on the proposed signs.

This is not the first time the controversy has come to a head. In 1985, the city was forced to take down signs displaying “The Beaches” on them, after “Beach” proponents rose in near revolt. Although the BIA would like the vote to be binding as far as which name goes on the signs, they don’t expect the argument to be settled any time soon: “No matter what name is chosen by this vote, there will always be people who will call it by the other name, and that’s fine by us.”

Residents, who are defined as those living between Coxwell and Fallingbrook, and from the railroad tracks to the water, can vote for their choice online or in area Toronto Public Libraries until the deadline of 5 pm on April 14.



  1. Is “West Scarborough” an acceptable vote?

  2. “Revolt”? Does anyone honestly feel that kind of emotion is necessary? Why not just use both names, in order to reflect the historical diversity of opinion?

  3. From the Beaches BIA website, it sort of looks to favor the plural designation (aside from being called the Beaches BIA and not the Beach BIA) since they show individual beach names (Scarboro, Kew, Balmy, and Woodbine). Hard to argue for the Beach when the signs will indicate there are four beaches.

  4. hmmmm…history says beaches, i’ve said beach all my life…don’t really need cutesy signs to tell me wher i am and outsiders can probly figure it out themselves… or ask