Toronto

'It feels like a film set': Office lights next door give Leslieville condo residents sleepless nights

If you can’t sleep because your neighbours are blasting music, you can file a noise complaint. But what if it’s their lights that are preventing you from dozing off? Well some east enders found out you can file a complaint for that too.

Business owners could face $50K fine, city says

Many residents in Susanne Carnelos's building say the lights coming from the neighbouring offices keep them from sleeping at night. (Martin Trainor/CBC NEWS )

If you can't sleep because your neighbours are blasting music, you can file a noise complaint. But what if it's their lights that are preventing you from dozing off? Well, some east enders found out you can file a complaint for that too.

Residents of a five-storey building near Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue in Leslieville say they've been kept up for years, because the commercial space beside them often keeps its lights on all night.

"I can't sleep. It's that artificial blue lighting beaming in," said Susanne Carnelos.

Lights left on at night in a commercial building are causing problems for residents of a neighbouring condo in the Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue area. (Toni Miceli)

Carnelos has lived in her condo for seven years. There's only a small laneway separating the two buildings and their windows face each other. So when the offices leave their fluorescent lights on, Carnelos says her unit is lit up.

"It feels like a film set with all those lights and I'm a one woman show."

Over the past few years, Carnelos says she and others have complained many times to the businesses and to the building's owner.

'It's like someone is reading beside you in bed'

"I've put signs in the windows for them. I've gone over to talk to them, I've called them on the telephone. And inevitably it always goes back to the same thing," said Carnelos. 

The building is owned by a firm called Memnon. CBC Toronto contacted the company asking to speak with the owner several times, but hasn't heard back.

A photo of Carnelo's living room lit up at night by the offices on the other side of the laneway. (Susanne Carnelos)

According to the city, the owner can face up to $50,000 in fines if he doesn't comply.

Residents living in the condo on the other side of the commercial space say they're also dealing with the same issue, except their units are a lot closer.

 There's only a walkway running between Amelia Eggan's home and the offices.

"It's as though you're trying to sleep in your bedroom and someone has lights on around you and they're reading beside you in bed. There's no real control of personal space," said Eggan.

She and her partner have resorted to wearing masks when they sleep, but she says it doesn't help much.

Toronto a huge offender 

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) tracks light pollution and says cities like Toronto are huge offenders.

"For decades light was considered to be a good thing. It's a symbol of prosperity," said Robert Dick, with the RASC's Light Pollution Abatement Committee.

"White light is great during the daytime, it keeps you alert. But at night it fools your biology and there's a lot of critical biology that goes on at night. Your body infers from the content of white light that's shining in your eyes that it's still daylight, and it disables those functions in your body," said Dick.

The windows on the two buildings face each other and they're only separated by a laneway. (Martin Trainor/CBC NEWS)

According to the Toronto municipal code a property that "creates a nuisance to other properties" has to provide some sort of "barrier or deflectors to prevent lighting … from shining directly into a dwelling unit."

Carnelos filed a complaint with the city a few weeks ago.

City inspectors arrived one night and determined the office building was creating a problem for its neighbours.

Joe Magalhaes, a manager with the city's Municipal Licensing and Standards department, says the property's owner will be served with an order Friday and has several weeks to comply. 

Why don't homeowners put in blackout blinds? 

"So many owners ask me why don't the people who are being affected by the light do something about it and put up some blackout blinds," said Magalhaes.

"But ... the onus is always on that party that's creating a nuisance."

Carnelos says she's thrilled by the news.

"It's been affecting how I feel every day," said Carnelos.

"I just can't help but think that we're not the only ones who are dealing with this. Just look how densely populated these neighbourhoods are becoming."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and environmental journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: natalie.nanowski@cbc.ca

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