On September 8, 1969, a meeting was held in Byron to consider the formation of a city-wide group with representation from each community association. This meeting was initiated and chaired by the Byron Area Secondary School Association. Twenty-two persons were present representing ten existing organizations.
A second meeting was held at St. Marks School in the Northridge area on September 15th under the auspices of the Northridge-Stoneybrook Community Association. Nineteen persons were present representing nine associations. There was further discussion about the purpose of the federation and how it should be organized.
The third meeting was arranged and hosted by the North Central London Community Association in Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church on September 22. Twenty-six persons were present, representing nine associations, and a few interested individuals from areas where no association existed. At this meeting Long-Range Goals were presented and approved. A motion was passed that a city-wide organization be formed and that it should be called THE URBAN LEAGUE OF LONDON. A Constitution Committee was appointed. On October 9th a draft constitution was presented and delegates were requested to have their association accept or reject it. On October 23rd a revised constitution was approved. A nominating committee and election issue committees were appointed. On October 30th, 1969, the officers of the new association were elected. [Taken from the 1973 Report on the Urban League of London From date of Formation]
From 1969 onwards, League members were active in many facets of city life. These included municipal elections, city planning, education, traffic and transportation, architectural and heritage preservation, environment and pollution, social housing, parks, conservation lands and open space, public recreation facilities and Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearings. The League was incorporated in 1974 and awarded charitable status in 1978. Thereinafter the League was able to raise money by running bingos several times a year, providing much needed funds that were used to finance numerous community and city-wide projects. This has allowed the League to spend more than $250,000 to support worthwhile endeavors throughout the city.
When fundraising through bingos ceased in 2004, other options for fundraising were explored and the League was able to set up its own Endowment Fund with the London Community Foundation. The initial target to raise $100,000 was reached in 2007, thanks to some generous contributions by Richard and Beryl Ivey.
Over the years, the Urban League of London, often acting as a partner with other member groups or outside agencies and organizations, has participated in and supported a variety of projects including: Canada Day Celebrations, Tree Plantings, the Cavendish Trail Project, Oakridge Pool Repairs, Henderson Trail Project, London Bicycle Festivals, St. Julien Park Revitalization Project, Sifton Bog Preservation and Enhancement Initiatives, South London Pool Project, The Responsible City Conference (1991), Tree Symposium (1991), the Urban Ecology Inventory (1988), Medway Valley Life Science Study (1989), Global Action Plan (1993-4), Infill and Intensification Study (1995), Fall Colours Flyover (1995), The Active Citizen publication, TREAs Master Composter Program, Celebrate the Thames (1996-7) which included the publication of Thames Topics (8 booklets) and the Thames Heritage Map, Connie Cunningham Memorial Garden (2000), community schools projects, library programs and many other initiatives. In 2004 ReForest London was started as a project of the League. This enterprise flourished and today ReForest London has incorporated and acquired its own charitable status.
One of the founding members of the Urban League was Jane Bigelow. Orlando Zamprogna (Oz) attended an early meeting but was not active in the League. They were both subsequently elected to city council. Jane served on the Board of Control from 1970 to 1971 and was Mayor from 1972 to 1978. For several years John Judson helped the League on OMB and heritage issues as well as our incorporation and was later elected as Ward 1 alderman from 1979 to 1982. More recently past Urban League Chairpersons, Sandy Levin (Ward 1, 1998-2003) and Joni Baechler (Ward 2, 2001 – 2006, Ward 5, 2007 – 2014) have been elected to Council, and other active UL members who have held council seats are Ed Corrigan (Ward 7, 2001 to 2003) and Walter Lonc (Ward 7, 2007-2010).
Initially the League held most of its monthly meetings at the C.I.A.G. building, 291 King Street. Soon after Connie Cunningham joined the League the meetings moved to the London Urban Resource Centre at 388 Dundas Street where Connie worked. Once Grosvenor Lodge became a Resource Centre for Environmental and Heritage Groups, the League began meeting there in 1994 and, for a few years, office space was rented at the lodge from which some of the larger projects were run. From the mid 70s to the early 90s, annual general meetings were held at Labatt Lounge. Since that time the AGMs have usually been held at the lodge.
Over the years, League members have served on many City of London Advisory Committees and task forces including, but not limited to: the London Advisory Committee on Heritage, Development Charges Monitoring Committee, London Housing Advisory Committee, Ecological and Environmental Planning Advisory Committee, Advisory Committee on the Environment, Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Trees and Forests Advisory Committee, Thames Valley Corridor Study, Town and Gown Committee and the Governance Task Force. When the Official Plan and Zoning By-laws were rewritten in 1988, the League prepared an extensive brief with the help of a professional planner, which documented the changes we wanted to see included in the new Official Plan. League members participate in many of the studies, environmental assessments and Official Plan Reviews that are initiated by the city. Since the mid 90s, the Urban League president has had quarterly or biannual meetings with the Mayor.
Urban growth, development, servicing, transportation, community facilities, environment, natural and built heritage are issues that affect all citizens of London. Members of the Urban League review proposals, research the issues, and provide responses and presentations to the City, the Ontario Municipal Board and other open forums.