Opportunity, right in the centre of Jasper Place

Update – The purchase has been approved by Council!

 

Second only in impact to the approval of a statutory Area Redevelopment Plan next year, in a single-effort tomorrow, City Council could be in the position of granting a substantial opportunity to the west-end and in particular, the communities of the Jasper Place area in Ward 1.

The orange building at the corner of 100th avenue and 156th street, the site of a former school in the Town of Jasper Place, has long-been a distinctive mark. It’s also centered between four communities undergoing a dedicated revitalization, across the street from the Jasper Place transit terminal, and adjacent to a future LRT stop, within an active business revitalization zone, and within an area of Stony Plain Road envisioned to be a walkable pedestrian coordinator and vibrant urban market.

A decision by MacEwan University’s board of governors in 2009, to consolidate operations around it’s downtown campus means an open opportunity for the future of the building and site.

Slated to begin construction in 2013, with a opening targeted for 2015;

The new facility will house operations for the Centre for the Arts & Communications (CFAC), which will relocate from the west end campus.


Students will remain in the west end until the new facility is complete.

Yesterday evening several interested community league’s gathered to learn more about MacEwan’s plans and possible future options and processes for repurposing the site. Officials see a likely future for the facility in serving the public in some way, and any sale will need the approval of the provincial government through an order in council.

City staff have been discussing a possible purchase of the facility for some time now. With a possible future use an “arts incubator”.

With the surrounding communities looking for an investment in local amenities, and an adjacent business revitalization zone looking to create an attractive urban market, there is opportunity here. And with a decision today, Council can move the purchase forward. An arts incubator perhaps, space for community meetings, activities and programs, or more – right next to a future LRT transit station.

The loss of an educational facility in the community need not be a loss at all, just a new direction for an accessible, centrally located facility, at the four corners of neighbourhoods with a combined population of over 15,000. Officially sponsored revitalization efforts will have ended by the time MacEwan University has moved downtown, a decision to purchase this orange icon tomorrow, could be the best way for the city to end those efforts and send the communities of West Jasper Place, Glenwood, Canora, Britannia-Youngstown as well Sherwood, Jasper Park and more, off into their future.

 

 


 

State of the Neighbourhood – Connecting our communities with local public engagement

 

It’s been just over a year now since a lack of supporting ad revenue forced the closure of the Stony Plain Road Urban Revitalization Report. The community/business newsletter with a distribution of over 15,000, serving the Jasper Place area communities, the Stony Plain Road Business Association, and for which I had the privilege of serving as editor. With local revitalization efforts, streetscaping, the West LRT, and more going on, The SPURR was a highly effective way for community leagues, and other community groups and initiatives to distribute information to the community at-large. And through Canada Post delivery, that news was able to reach apartment mailboxes, places where community volunteers are unable to deliver too.

Here in Glenwood, we’ve lost a highly effective outreach tool that we’re now trying to replace as best we can. However, the things affecting our community, from the efforts of the Stony Plain Road BRZ to the creation of a statutory land-use plan for our community, are building. As is their impact on the quality of life and the future vision for our area.

As the City Liaison Director for my community league, the question for me became – how do we connect the community with all these things that are impacting it, that as resident stakeholders, they have a right to be engaged on?

The State of the Neighbourhood

I’m a political nerd and with a U.S. Presidential election on my mind, the name sort of stood out.

Last night we held the State of the Neighbourhood at Glenwood’s Community Hall. In what I hope can become a series of events in the neighbourhood’s future, we invited individuals and representatives of:

Councillor Linda Sloan – Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan – Stony Plain Road Streetscape – West LRT Project – Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone – The Mustard Seed

The agenda and locale for the event was simple. For three hours we opened the doors of our community hall, with one hour of presentations, and two-hours in which residents had the opportunity to view and collect informative materials, ask questions, and converse in an intimate setting with each-other and our invited speakers & guests.

As a community deeply involved in West LRT discussions, we’ve seen the flaws in ‘big-box’ multi-community consultation events. From an inability for residents to connect in meaningful ways with decision-makers, to being crammed into a building well beyond it’s capacity, to trying in vain to pose questions to few officials in too large a crowd.

With a project that’s going to impact far more than traffic patterns and transit options, that’s expected to have a transformative land-use effect, I wanted to be able to connect the community one-on-one with more than just transit planners.

This is where I see the most success in the event we help last night. The community had more than just the opportunity to connect and ask questions in a comfortable environment in their own backyard. They had the opportunity to expand the discussion. To talk in person with a planner working towards a future land-use vision for the community. To hear from and speak directly with the executive director of the local business revitalization whose work crosses over that project boundary. The future vision for Stony Plain Road is focused in a large part on people, on accessibility, walkability and related amenities. And without the hustle and coldness of a packed large-scale meeting, residents could use their feet, walk-up to decision makers and ask their questions and receive answers in detail without being rushed, or overlooked, or having to stare at the clock.

And for a follow-up. One of the biggest annoyances I’ve seen and heard regarding the West LRT project is the lack of two-dialog and follow-ups. Residents make suggestions, do as they’re requested and leave behind their notes and suggestions. Where they ultimately end-up, no one often knows. How are they considered, how do they factor into the internal city discussion, we so often just don’t know with the city’s current engagement processes. And I’ve spoken before about the failings of mass, big-box style consultation events.

This is where there is benefit in going local. In going to the neighbourhood level and with an event like State of Neighbourhood, providing the community ownership of the process. As a community league we can take resident’s questions. We can put them in the hands of decision makers with the expectation that answers will be provided, that we can publicly post and relay to the community. We can lay out our own agenda for consultation, rather than continually wondering what’s going on within the city, or constantly having to be reactive to a top-down process.

We didn’t have the largest turn-out on a cold, snowy November night. But we did have a successful experiment and trail-run. We put the future of one community, it’s residents, stakeholders and the decision-makers impacting it, in our community hall – and the end result was what I hoped it would be. Engaging and comprehensive on a local scale. And I would take last night’s event over almost all of the cluttered, loud and cumbersome consultation and engagement exercises and events in which I’ve participated over my four years as a community volunteer.

There’s of course, still a place for the large-scale distribution of information and multi-community events. But if our city wants to develop a passion for citizen engagement and participation, then let’s go local, let’s put our community halls and local facilities to use and consult and engage residents, business owners and other stakeholders, where they live – where they’re comfortable – and where they’re most likely to set aside their apprehensiveness, let their guard down and open up on how they’d like to see their communities and city grow.

UnCoordination – Edmonton’s Growth Coordination Strategy

A civic Growth Coordination Strategy, an objective of the Municipal Development Plan is on the agenda today for City Council’s executive committee. For a number of engaged Edmontonians, the draft strategy and admin report released as part of the committee agenda late last week may well be the first opportunity that they’ve had to view it. For other community stakeholders, the strategy didn’t come into view until after leaving a small group of ‘key stakeholders’ and arriving already in a draft form.

The lack of public consultation has already been well criticised. What I’ll suggest here today, is that the document we have here in front of us, falls well short of the goals established for it in the Municipal Development Plan, hands excessive discretion to city administration to carry out its action items, and while it speaks to the necessity of information in the decision-making process, it fails in that regard.

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Section 3.1.1 of the MDP established the policy directions expected in future growth coordination and the integration of higher density land uses with LRT expansion and transit centres. It encourages that a minimum of 25% (another debate right there) of housing-unit growth occur within mature and established communities. It addresses the timing and phasing of new growth in ‘developing and planned neighbourhoods’.

Furthermore, in section 3.6.1.1, the GCS is tasked with providing measures for developing neighbourhoods relating to “livability, current and future public infrastructure investment and long term financial sustainability” in order to “inform Edmonton’s decisions on future residential growth and expansion”.

 

From the MDP

Manage future public obligations and growth opportunities – Approve new growth combined with its accompanying infrastructure obligations when it can be demonstrated that the City can afford it.

3.1.1.6 Develop a growth coordination strategy to address timing and phasing of new residential growth in developing and planned neighbourhoods. The strategy will relate to the City’s strategic goals, current and future public infrastructure investment, long term financial sustainability and the amount, location and pace of population and employment growth; and will establish: Expectations for completing developing neighbourhoods – Expectations for initiating new Neighbourhood Structure Plans

3.1.1.7 The Growth Coordination Strategy will identify infrastructure and service obligations related to developing neighbourhoods and in conjunction with the Integrated Infrastructure Management Plan will outline the City’s strategy for providing this infrastructure and infrastructure required by new growth.

3.1.1.8 Proponents for a new Neighbourhood Structure Plan will seek Council’s authority to prepare the plan. The information supplied by the applicant and administration will allow Council to provide direction and permission in accordance with Council’s Vision.

3.1.1.9 Information that proponents and administration supply will include the existing infrastructure and the funded and unfunded commitment for the sector, the relationship of the sector’s infrastructure and funding to the other sectors in the City, the current population capacity in the sector, the relationship of the proposed plan to transit, the availability and timing of supportive City infrastructure related to the proposed plan’s approval and significant environmental impacts.

3.1.1.10 The Growth Coordination Strategy will address demand for land, housing units, and housing choice at the regional, city-wide and sector level.

 

And From the Administration Report

While referred to as the Growth Coordination Strategy, it essentially is a framework to identify and manage future public obligations and accommodate the growth of new residential communities through the following actions:

• Monitoring infrastructure commitments and growth indicators as specified in The Way We Grow and incorporating growth information into departmental master plans, three and ten year budget planning and long range financial planning.

• Reporting to City Council through annual growth monitoring reports, and at the time Area and Neighbourhood Structure Plans are advanced for Council’s consideration. 

• Coordinating the planning and provision of infrastructure in developing neighbourhoods.

• Communicating and collaborating with private, public and non-profit community builders to meet the physical and social/ recreational needs of new communities.

 

The first sentence from the administrative report to Council, essentially lays out the title of “Growth Coordination Strategy” as a misnomer. Where the MDP implies an active role for this strategy, in addressing housing across the city and region, and in addressing the “timing and phasing of new residential growth in developing and planned neighbourhoods”, the final product forwarded for Council’s consideration, ultimately takes an idle role.

What the strategy, as presented, does not do is prioritize areas for growth or specify directions to ensure that future growth is contiguous. In failing to do so, it loses to opportunity to encourage growth, as close as possible to existing resources, infrastructure and amenities, or to ensure the completion of developing areas prior to new develop leap-frogging past.

The strategy speaks of the need for “comprehensive and timely information”. It also speaks at a high-level about the servicing and amenity needs of new communities. But it falls short of providing detailed financial information regarding the costs and revenues of new outward development and infill redevelopment (in fact, as the strategy has developed, references to established and mature communities have fallen away). What are the costs to the city of servicing and providing for new communities; those that have been completed, and those still in the process of being completed.

The MDP specifies targets for new development, and new housing within the existing urban form. Infill development, the redevelopment of underutilized & vacant sites within established and core areas are unaddressed.

 

Reporting to City Council through growth monitoring reports and neighbourhood and Area Structure Plan applications. In addition to receiving the Annual Growth monitoring Report, Council will receive relevant growth information at the time an area or neighbourhood structure plan is submitted for their approval consideration.

Coordinating planning and provision of infrastructure in developing neighbourhoods. This will be done internally through use of consistent, comprehensive and timely information provided to all business areas of the City. The Growth Coordination committee will allow the opportunity for coordination with external development partners.

Communicating and collaborating with private, public and non-profit community builders to meet the physical and social/recreational needs of new communities. This will be done through a Growth Coordination committee which will provide a forum for ongoing discussion and information sharing of growth information well in advance of plan submissions. A terms of reference will be developed for the Committee as a first step in the implementation of the Growth coordination Strategy.

 

The strategy leans largely on the creation of a “Growth Coordination Committee”. Who will be represented on the committee? Who are its key stakeholders? What are its terms of reference? Are these decisions to be made by Council or left to the discretion of city administration?

This strategy can be a success. It can help prioritize and guide future growth, it can support redevelopment within mature communities, and can actively guide the creation of housing option and density targets across the city. It can be rebuilt, which means it needs far more input and work than can be done within Council Chambers. This document should be sent back, and ‘its redevelopment’ should begin with a strong public involvement plan and a comprehensive group of key stakeholders. Speakers can line up at a Council meeting to speak to this 5 minutes at a time, but a document like this, which has such importance in fulfilling the goals of the MDP, both it and the public deserve much more than that.

Not sure when the plows are coming? There could be a couple apps for that.

Residents unhappy with snow removal as windrows block in their vehicles – Global TV

“There was no notice at all that this was going to happen,” said Allan Garber, who lives in the Westmount neighbourhood.

From the video – “If they could have a policy that everyone knows, one side of the street then other, east-side then west-side..so people know what to expect.”

 

Now admittedly, nothing here is going to solve the problem of reaching out to residents without internet connectivity, although it could, if future temporary signage for neighbourhood announcements is of the cellular-based digital variety.

On the city’s open data website, you’ll find the new ‘citizen dashboard’. Launched this week, it pulls from the growing open data catalog to present info in an accessible, easy to use, easy to read format. And behind it is that catalog, with a mass of raw data in various formats. Including the static, snow-clearing schedule that still lists my neighbourhood as having been completed, two days before it actually was.

Not something particularly useful for those folks in Westmount.

So, on to those apps. Let’s start with the open source, web-based, Shareabouts. A crowd-sourced mapping tool. It’s perhaps more well known for it’s use in bikeshare programs, but for a few examples of it in action:

 

Make Brooklyn Safer – Mapping dangerous intersections

City of Portland – Potential bike share locations

And demos:

Describing community assets

City park usage data

 

The usage here is to create an interactive, neighbourhood by neighbourhood breakdown of actions following a snowfall event. Accurate and detailed timelines for clearing can be maintained. Plow drivers can post updates, on the road and as they enter neighbourhoods. And as per the gentleman’s comment in the news report, the city can even go so far as to let residents know when equipment in entering the neighbourhood, which sides of the street are being done first, and update their progress as it’s happening. And residents can respond by pointing out trouble spots and areas in need of attention, or even commending a driver on a job well done.

And of course, other applications such as Google Maps could be utilized in the same way. With the usage and implementation of these apps, definitely not being limited to snow removal.

The city is on the way with open data, now it’s time to embrace interactivity and grow the Edmonton’s digital presence with us as residents, accordingly.

You Shall (not) Pass – A winter-time look at making Edmonton more accessible for all

I’d like to spend a few minutes here talking with you about snow removal. No, I’m not going to mention my thoughts on how, based on this city’s recovery from the last major snowfall, I think we probably would have been shut down by another major snowfall this week. Nor am I going to mention the ruts like canyons, that had folks on my street pushing stuck cars, over a week after the major blast that kicked off winter. Go out and buy snow tires folks, seriously.

It’s not able bodied folks who can push a stuck sedan, or navigate a windrow, or drivers with three-season tires which are marketed for four, who are left in the lurch in my community now that the plows have been through the neighbourhood and the snow pack scrapped away.

Based on the personal experiences of my family, I’ve said before that the fastest way to become imprisoned isn’t to commit a crime, but to suffer an injury or illness that robs you of your mobility and independence.

As a healthy, mobile individual there’s nothing in these pictures which is an impediment to me as a pedestrian. And if I didn’t know, or have someone close to me who’s lived with and battled mobility issues, who requires the use of a wheelchair to travel more than short distances, I might well just walk on without giving this scene a second thought.

But I think of my elderly neighbours who don’t own a vehicle, who maintain their independence by walking to neighbourhood amenities and utilizing public transit. And I think of that person close to me, to whom this streetscape may as well be a solid wall. To individuals like these, Edmonton’s “Snow and Ice Control” policy can sometimes be as cold as the season.

So if we’re serious, actually serious about reducing auto dependence, and encouraging the accessibility of the city to all forms of transportation, and making this city livable for everyone, then let’s bring policy C409G up to par, and utilize smaller equipment in our neighbourhoods to finish the job left behind by graders and plows.

This doesn’t mean making the clearing of sidewalks a city responsibility, but it should mean that following a snowfall event, the city puts on itself the same obligation to clear its streets and rights-of-way, that it puts on residents and homeowners to clear sidewalks surrounding their property.

It means using smaller equipment to remove windrows and the snow pack from crosswalks and pedestrian connections, as well as following along after a neighbourhood has been bladed, removing the newly created windrows from the paths of those on foot, with strollers, and whose mobility is bolstered by using canes, walkers, etc.

I can point to several individuals in my neighbourhood who, through their business endeavors, own bobcats or similar equipment (one of which, whose generosity in clearing these connections on his block was rewarded with a fine). Folks whom I’d bet would jump at the chance to be contracted and utilized by the city to provide this service in their neighbourhoods.

Things that are taken from us by injury, illness, or simply the march of time, are magnifying. Something which becomes a roadblock to a friend, a relative, or someone we just passed on the street, can be invisible or simply a mere annoyance to you and I.

The way we recover from a snow fall in this city could certainly be better, but for civic politicians and city administrators, when contemplating and planning the city’s response, remember that it isn’t just cars that get people from A to B, and utilizing public transit takes more than just a clear bus route.

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Via CBC News Edmonton

 

 

*ability, Oxford and Edmonton – A green neighbourhood with an auto obsession.

My volunteer life has taken a turn towards looking at walkability, and the accessibility of neighbourhoods to all forms of transportation and all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities. It’s through that lens that I find myself looking at north-west Edmonton’s Oxford Neighbourhood. A suburban community, with the city as it’s developer, aspiring towards “mandatory environmental standards and sustainable development”.

At least, for the built-form of it’s homes.

“Homebuilders for the 87 available lot spaces are required to meet eco-friendly guidelines for conservation and energy-efficiency including achieving a minimum EnerGuide rating of 78 or be certified to Built Green Silver standards or equivalents.” – CTV News 

Oxford’s Residential Design Standards for builders and lot owners.

But for a city in which walkability, bikeability, and ability to reduce auto dependence are increasingly on the minds of many residents, and seemingly with the support of a number of city policies, directives, and statements – how does Oxford fit in.

Well – It’s a suburban development. There are no back lanes and “attached double front garages are required”. The sort of design that leads to a cluttered, vehicle dominated streetscape and certainly limits the ability to have treed boulevards separating pedestrians from traffic. The subdivision has a suburban block style, but there are walkways to provide pedestrian connections. A larger question could be what amenities, and supporting densities are planned for the eventual, large-scale neighbourhood build out that would support a greener lifestyle by allowing residents to do more close to home?

Appreciating the environment standards which the city has set for the community’s homes, there a larger issues at play. And with the city assuming the role of developer, I would expect, and would have expected that a push towards greener living include local streetscapes which are friendlier to people and their bikes and feet, rather than their cars.

Awards Night – The best and worst of infill

I want to spend a few minutes here talking about infill development. And I want to do so without digging into the details of the Municipal Development Plan or forthcoming Growth Coordination Strategy (although I don’t why I bother bringing it up since it doesn’t do much to mention mature area redevelopment or coordinate much of anything), or the mass of changes city staffers are proposing for the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay and several residential zones.

Infill can very much be described as being a case of the good, the bad and the wrapped in grey vinyl siding ugly. We don’t do much to acknowledge impressive infill projects, architectural interest, family-friendly amenities and the use of desired & durable materials. There isn’t much acknowledgement to be had for engaging with a community early, being willing to adapt, to respond to feedback, advice and criticisms, and creating a better project as a result.

Cool and innovative, a square box wrapped in vinyl and built to minimum code, or something in between, it’s time communities and a city looking to redevelop and densify, helped to put some space between them, if only ceremonially.

Call it; The Mayor’s Infill Awards as decided upon by Edmonton’s Communities.

As a mature neighbourhood resident, I want a way to acknowledge this. It’s not everyone’s favorite design of course, but I love its design along with its architecture and materials. I very much appreciate that its builder, happens to be the only developer in the community, who in my three+ years as a community league volunteer, proactively reached out to the league and to the neighbours to discuss its design and any potential issues.

It deserves some recognition, the chance to stand out on a larger scale than just the block face.

So what are the metrics for deciding award winners. Design, architecture, materials, and public consultation to be sure. But meetings and the end product certainly aren’t the be all and end all.

Another infill project here in Glenwood. This one wasn’t built by the original owner who rezoned the property. This property was home to a typical small bungalow, which at the end of its life became a drug house, a victim of a fire, and then it sat, an empty, derelict mess for well over a year. The community pursued every channel currently provided by the city to have it remediated, including an appeal to Council to make its clean-up a prerequisite to rezoning. We were certain the property, despite being rezoned for redevelopment, would sit as is for some time. Council disagreed, and in the end we were right, unfortunately. The lot was eventually flipped and redeveloped. But if it had been a product of the original developer.. deserving of a Razzie, imo.

A duplex on 163st nearing completion. It’s a pleasing design, built by a developer who’s been responsive to contact from the community. The removal of the older home and clean-up of the site was done in a timely manner, and construction in a tight environment and along a busy road has been done without major disruptions.

Another duplex in my community, built not for resale but by a family to stay close under one roof. It’s been referenced by other developers to gain community support for their projects, although their end products didn’t resemble it in the slightest. It’s look and feel, it’s amenity space, it’s integration with the character of the street and community deserve acknowledgement. I can see folks in Glenwood singling it out as an example of desirable infill development.

It’s been awhile since the words “no more crap” were uttered. Why don’t we take some time and encourage communities to single out the best builders and redevelopments in our mature communities.

 


 

Warmer than you think

Edmonton adopts winter city strategy

Is Winter City project best use of $362,000 in tax money?

Sorry, I can’t stand the cold

Ben Henderson wears a funny hat … (and winter city launches in Edmonton)

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When it comes to seasons, I have to give a fist bump to Fall. Not just because the colors enhance the look of the city or because the flying,buzzing, blood-suckers are on their way out and it’s safe to sit in the backyard without the OFF. I like it because I’m not a summer or a winter person. I’m not a fan of hot weather, my house doesn’t have AC and my office is upstairs where it seems every molecule of hot air eventually rises to. Winter? It’s obviously easier to warm up than to cool down, but shovelling and 5pm sunsets? Bah!

Fall, for that oh so brief amount of time where it’s not too hot, not too cold, and the sun waits until after 7 to disappear, that’s just right. I suppose the same arguments could be applied to Spring, but Fall doesn’t flood my driveway every year.

So, Fall. Great season, lots to like but oh so short. Summer? We’re the festival city, there’s always something going on. Why people choose to take their vacations and leave town during our sunniest months, I don’t get.  Spring, meh. But Winter…What do we with you?

You chill us, you impede us, you make us annoyed with the place we call home. You can make us forget about positives of this place, and four -30 days per year can feel like four months in our memories. Something we seem to instantly recall in any conservation we find ourselves in regarding the weather here. Yes Winter, you give us community and backyard rinks, skating, skiing, skidooing and snowboarding, but…it’s cold! It snows, and shovelling is a pain. The City’s snow clearing is never fast enough, sidewalks can resemble those skating rinks, no one with mobility issues should have to treacherously navigate a windrow to access public transportation.

Winter, at the end of the day, you’re a force of nature, unstoppable & unmovable. So do we do with you?

As a city, our basic needs come first. Yes we clear our roads, with a substantial budget to do so. But what about all the aspects of urban life? What about public transportation, what accessibility for pedestrians and determined cyclists. What about helping and protecting the most vulnerable during the most difficult months of our northern climate?

Beyond that, what about ourselves, our collective morale and spirit during the days when light is short and cold (and colds, the result of hunkering down inside) are easy to come by? Yes, the city (and this Edmontonian certainly appreciates the effort his City has made to provide outdoor activities) has had mixed results with Winter fests under it’s direction. But is that the only source of winter activity, winter fun and interaction? Heck no. Not with countless community leagues, community groups, business associations, etc in operation across our city.

This is the ‘why’ for a winter strategy. This is why, while you’re free to take any position you wish, including giving a “Bah! Humbug!” to whole thing and the WinterCity strategy’s aspirational, maybe even fluffy language, I’d ask you, my fellow Edmontonians not to begrudge the ‘try’.

Debate, discussion, and a committed focus on the winter season need not be a narrow focus on festivals and events, or the costs involved. Our core services and a helping hand to residents in need perhaps stand to benefit the most. Edmonton has a number of agencies, boards and committees, their seats filled with interested and engaged Edmontonians. Their work is often quiet, behind the scenes and without the recognition it most likely deserves, but these folks, these outlets help to build our city. Whether it’s providing advice of the status and growth of the Edmonton Transit System, in advocacy for persons with disabilities, or in honoring people and places by using historical names within the city.

For individuals out there who want to tackle winter head-on, then I say the WinterCity Strategy is a great start, and an advisory council and other related avenues, a great place for them. Go out there and build capacity in those grass roots organizations to hold winter festivals and events. Explore innovative ways to build urban amenities that are attractive in all seasons. Go out and experiment, find ways to improve the accessibility of our infrastructure during the winter months, and liaise with social agencies and service providers to help protect those who need protection from the harshness of our climate.

The budget request to help life this off the ground is not unreasonable, the avenues to explore are plenty, and the optimism and aspirations of “For The Love of Winter”, as a city… let’s run with it and see what happens. When it comes to winter, we won’t be able to see we didn’t plan for it to the best extent possible, and didn’t get outside to make the most of it.

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Edmonton WinterCity Strategy

Of Infill and Absolutes

This afternoon at a public hearing, City Council referred a bylaw which would have made a number of changes to the Zoning Bylaw and Mature Neighbourhood Overlay, back to administration and a January 28th Executive Committee meeting. You can grab some analysis on it here.

Got home and and felt inspired to hammer out some thoughts on infill development, absolutes, the planning process in our city’s mature communities, and perceptions of it.

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Second only perhaps to Cell Towers, few discussions in the realm of civic politics can draw out absolutes and straw man arguments like infill development & redevelopment. It easily becomes a realm where wanting a transition between higher-densities and existing housing stock can easily, and it does, become rebutted with generalized statements about communities opposing redevelopment.

Take for instance the proposed large site rezoning proposed for the Malmo Plains community, recently highlighted by the Edmonton Journal. City Administration took the rare step of recommending that Council refuse the application on the basis that the proposed tower would be an unacceptable intrusion on the surrounding homes, “without being sensitive to any form of transitional housing densities between this use and the existing developments”.

The site is heading back to Council’s agenda later this year with an application for a new Direct Control zone and a doubling of the proposed densities. The proposed transition in the new application is in regards to townhomes, 3 1/2 storeys in height. There Is a request by the community to lower their height by a storey to better integrate with the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay and the surrounding homes, an attempt to cease development. No, it appears to be a reasonable compromise by a community that accepts higher densities and sees the opportunities for it, but desires solid planning.

This morning City Council voted to refer a series of changes to the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay and the RF1-RF5 residential zones back to city administration and a January 28th executive committee meeting. A desire by Councillor Sloan to hear from the 13+ registered speakers before sending the bylaw away was denied.

Were the 13 community representatives in attendance opposed to redevelopment in their neighbourhoods? Of course not. We choose to call these communities home, and for those taking the time out of their day to appear at city hall, the motivation is very clearly not to stop development or freeze investment in their neighbourhoods.

In fact, I look to my own motivations and combined with what I see from other passionate community advocates is a strong desire to invest in our communities. As volunteers our investment is in sweat as we look to revitalize amenities which allow us to live locally without being dependant on the use of a vehicle, and to preserve our community schools. A symbiotic relationship which requires new housing stock for seniors in need of more supportive housing options, and young families looking for a place to call home.

Little is accomplished by referring to a desire for consultation or debate as opposition to development. Nor is much done by foregoing a detailed planning process for a tunnel vision on units built.

From the proposed amendments on today’s Council agenda, is it good planning, for example, to forgo the character of the block to allow new home setbacks which could well result in reduced sight-lines which hinder the good planning that comes from crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). Are some of the proposed small lot regulations going to provide the homes/amenity spaces desired by young families looking to live in the urban core?

These are the detailed discussions to have going forward. It’s not resistance to redevelopment, it’s a desire to see planning which will lead to desirable infill development, and multiple units which can attract a market which right now is finding its housing stock in the suburbs. Fighting sprawl and the continual development of new neighbourhoods to the outskirts of the city, making more efficient use of existing infrastructure, and encouraging reinvestment in mature neighbourhoods requires buy-in from all sides; communities, builders and buyers. The time spent on good planning, and the political will to balance all sides can be time consuming, but it shouldn’t be played down or disregarded as a nuisance. There are productive discussions to be had which can well lead to great long-term gains.

I hope the coming discussions on these, the proposed MNO and zoning changes, serve to prove that. But it won’t happen if those, with whom decision making power resides, treat this process and the coming discussion as a check mark on a list of things to do on the way to executive committee and eventual approval.

On the way to the ballot box

If you’re reading this you’re probably either someone with an interest in local politics and civic involvement, or you sat down at a computer with the page open, or something. Anyway, if you are the former, then you’re likely a member of the minority of Edmontonians who vote in our civic elections and take an interest in civic policy and governance. This, the level of government closest to us. With which we interact every day of ours lives, and which is free from party politics, party leaders, whipped votes, and the lure of cabinet seats drawing the attention of individual elected members.

Members of Council are individuals whom are free to vote and influence the city as they see fit. And if they’re open, accessible, attentive and eager to seek input, there’s a large base of vibrant, intelligent community advocates and stakeholders with the local knowledge to positively analyse, and help build the policies and direction that are going to lead to a more vibrant city and a strong future vision.

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct”.

The quote may or may not have come from Thomas Jefferson, but regardless, it’s worth considering.

We’re now a year away from the 2013 civic election. With this election likely to see more vacating seats and new faces than the last, as someone whose volunteer interests revolve almost entirely around civic decision making, I’ve been giving thought to the sorts of candidates I’d like to not only see come forward, but be encouraged and supported to do so. Bear with me for a bit of rhetoric and perhaps some ranting, but hey, it wouldn’t be politics with them.

I’ve no interest in voting for someone who wants a career from elected office. I want my vote to help elect an advocate, a public servant with ideas and vision, who also knows when it’s time to go. I don’t want my vote going to a candidate who looks and speaks to the world through a lens of “will this get me elected? Will this build name recognition?”, an ‘all things to all people’ approach. I want to see candidates who are open to input and debate, but who, at the same time have opinions of their own, a determined drive, vision, and a clear sense of what they believe is right and wrong. I want to see candidates who have been active in their communities, in their civic circles, not because they see it as a resume or name-building exercise, but because of a desire to help and a clear vision they’ve tried to see implemented using the resources and channels available to them. Nor do I wish to support someone inexperienced with civic policy and City Council. As electors, we’re best served by an individual who’s able to jump in, from the very start and that first meeting and public hearing. A term goes quickly and a Councillor’s attention is drawn from many directions. The more experience they’ve gained before being seeking office, can only serve to lessen their learning curve and help them to tackle issues effectively from the outset.

This is where our responsibility as voters, and as people who care about our city comes into play. Over the next 12 months we’ll no doubt have many discussions about the election, about policy, about issues and talking points. But dialog aside, along with telling everyone who will listen to us to get out and vote next fall, we need to be recruiters for our city. To go out and recognize the people who clearly care for Edmonton, for their businesses, neighbourhoods and communities. Folks who may not even have any political ambition in their veins, and encourage them to step forward to serve our city. To put their names and ideas out there for the voter’s consideration. Let’s not wait and see what our choices are after nomination day, lets get out there and reach out to the folks who we believe would be strong candidates, strong representatives, and encourage them to put their names forward. Then follow that up by hitting the pavement, hitting the doors, and helping them out along the way.

Planning JP

The process to develop a long awaited Jasper Place area redevelopment plan is finally set to begin. An ARP was identified as a key priority for residents of the Glenwood, Canora, West Jasper Place and Britannia-Youngstown communities during the development of the JP Revitalization Strategy, approved by Council in 2009. After a lobbying effort by community members, and with the budget time support of Councillor Sloan, funding was finally allocated to begin.

Revitalization of Residential Areas
The study area includes areas of older housing, in need of rehabilitation. Many property owners have been reluctant to
undertake home improvements, because of the uncertain future of the area. The Jasper Place neighbourhood is undergoing
renewal, since Council reaffirmed its future in 1980, as a single family area. East Glenwood, however, has not experienced
revitalization, despite its designation as a Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program area in 1983.

Changes in Land Use
The 100 Avenue Corridor was an area in transition when the zoning freeze was imposed. Single family housing was being
replaced with low-rise apartments, and commercial development along Stony Plain Road was spreading south into adjacent
residential areas. The freeze suspended this process, and left a mix of incompatible land uses in some parts of the corridor.
There is a need to establish a clear direction for future land use changes in the area, once the zoning freeze is lifted. The
upgrading of 100 Avenue to an arterial roadway, and its connection from 163 Street to 170 Street and Highway 16, will
increase commercial development pressures in the area.

The above quotes from the 100th Avenue Planning Study, approved by Council in 1986, show the issues affecting the area and the need land-use planning and revitalization in the area are not new.
Jasper Place 2012 Edmonton Census Results
As of the 2012 municipal census, with over 7,500 dwelling units, the JP area is now home to over 16,000 residents, with the largest of the four neighbourhoods, Glenwood, being home to over 5,000.

The growth of the Jasper Place population is also going to be affected by, and will to an extent, eventually reside with Transit Oriented Developments.

The Transit Oriented Development guidelines, approved by Council in February of this year, designated the three future stops along 156st & Stony Plain Road, as “neighbourhood” stations and are currently being used by Council and Administration to evaluate zoning application within 400 metres of each.

200m, 400m, and 800m distances from the proposed LRT stops along 156 Street. The guidelines currently apply within 400m of the station areas.

City of Edmonton – Transit Oriented Development Guidelines

The Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone is active along the commercial strip between communities. Community Leagues exist in all four neighbourhoods, and the Jasper Place Revitalization and the Friends of Jasper Place Society are active across neighbourhood boundaries working towards goals of revitalization and building community pride and involvement in the area.

The process, as outlined by City Administration is aimed towards a completion date in winter of 2013. Planners are currently looking for area residents, interested in joining the project’s “Evidence Team”
Jasper Place ARP Evidence Team TOR
This is a long awaited, long desired step in planning for change & revitalization in a growing area. An area with the potential to be a hub for the west-end and rich in amenities and housing options for a current and growing population. It was great to see residents from the four communties, turn out en masse this past Tuesday to learn more about the project. That level of interest will need to be maintained to ensure the best possible outcome. The four communities are connected, yet unique, and as such, it’s so important that individual contributions from each, be represented from beginning to end.

Anyway, this was just a quick rundown on what’s happened to date. I’ll have further information and commentary on the subject in a week or two after posing some questions to the planners involved. Four more info, you can visit Edmonton.ca/JasperPlaceARP

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And that’s that..for today anyways.

It’s important, vital, for a municipal council to have a vision for the future of the municipality under their care. It’s also equally important that they don’t take a header off the financial cliff chasing it. Today City Council was the adult in a room, absent Daryl Katz, as it sensibly voted to cease negotiations with the Katz Group.

About this time last year, Council expended a significant amount of political capital agreeing to a generous financial framework which included a Community Revitalization Levy + $80 million from other sources, an ask to the Provincial Gov for $100 million, up to $25 million for a pedway across 104 ave, an estimated $7 million for a community rink, $20 million for a marketing agreement, $20+ million for land purchases, with the City borrowing to construct the arena with the Katz Group making their contribution at $5.5 million per year over 35 years.

Council and the Mayor agreed to this without verifying the financial claims of the Katz Group. Without analysing, or as Seattle is doing, auditing the books of their prospective business partner. Without verifying, themselves or through City Admin, their partner’s financial claims.

A process conducted largely in camera and with private verbal reports, without due diligence providing all the facts and figures to city negotiators and civic decision makers, it’s well open for abuse or manipulation. Which indeed happened with the Katz Group playing down the importance of the tentative financial framework, the agreement reached in New York, while advancing claims of a struggling business model which not only required the naming rights but the entire revenue stream of the facility to be sustainable, while continually refusing to reveal it’s finances to the City; The majority investor in the project. And of course there may have a childish trip to Seattle somewhere in between.

The front door was open, the public, the media, and a Council which has been more than generous in moving this forward was there today waiting. Instead, rather than appear and move the agreement forward, the Katz Group offered a rhetoric filled letter offering no specifics or concessions as it’s response.

 

Motion approved by Council this afternoon.

1. As a result of Mr. Katz letter and unwillingness to have an open discussion with Council and the frustration of the Interim Design Agreement, all negotiations, and ongoing City work related to the October 26, 2011, framework be ceased immediately.

2. That administration provide a report, as soon as possible, to City Council to report on the completion of the cessation of negotiations, and the status of the City’s current, transferable investments in a potential downtown arena project.

3. That Administration provide a report outlining a framework for Council to explore potential avenues to achieve the long term goals of sustainable NHL Hockey in Edmonton.

 

Last year’s financial framework, or for that matter, any further negotiations, and spending on the arena design and process, should never have occurred without verifying the Katz Group’ finances and financial claims. Whether the Oilers are a profitable venture, or a failing business model in need of external and public subsidy to carry on, civic decision makers absolutely should have been provided the information to know one way or the other.

Today’s decision, ceasing further negotiations is the responsible course. Yes, it might well have been avoided with a dose of sunlight and due diligence some time ago and along the way, but Council can’t roll back the clock. It’s something for future Councillors and candidates to learn from. The next step, it’s Katz’, and it starts with transparency on the front steps of City Hall. Anything less is probably just a letter to the editor that’s bad for the blood pressure and Katz’ remaining support on Council.

Transit Bucks

Council set to privatize southeast LRT line – Edmonton Journal

Federal threat forced approval of P3 for LRT, group claims – CBC News

As a community volunteer in the west-end, for several years now, the route for West LRT expansion and it’s engineering and design phases, were and are a big part of my volunteer obligations. The following are some of my thoughts on today’s news cycle and the P3 model chosen to build, operate and maintain the ‘low-floor’ LRT system from the west-end to the south-east.

 _______

So just what are the implications of a P3 agreement that leaves maintenance and operation in private hands for an LRT line that will be retrofitted into and operated within city streets, transecting vehicles, intersections and pedestrians from the far west-end to Millwoods? A decision made without any public discussion, without any dialog between, Councillors, city admin and the public & affected communities; barring anymore investigative reporting we’ll probably just have to wait and see. An unacceptable approach for a project of this scale and impact.

Turning over the handling of maintenance and operations as part of the agreement most definitely should have gone out to the public for consultation. This isn’t, nor should it be some all or nothing proposition between building it anyway, at any cost, or not at all. A multi-billion investment that’s meant to transform land-use and transit modes from one end of the city to the other has to be done right. To do so, the devil is in the details from design to operation.

What does it mean for communities and transit riders, when the system isn’t governed by the City and ETS? Does it mean the possibility of two different fare schedules? Does it mean a lack of coordination between connections with the bus network and high-floor lrt systems? Does it mean potential difficulties in coordinating maintenance, repairs and upgrades between a private operator and ETS and the Transportation Dept? Does it mean reduced or alternate trip frequencies as compared to the public, ETS operated system?

This decision needed public consultation prior to being made. And the public deserved the opportunity, if we didn’t like what we heard, if we felt the Federal Gov was forcing this decision on our Councillors, to push back publicly, call our MP’s out and onto the floor, and let Councillors make a decision with public support behind them. As with many things however, with the bulk of the decision made, any public consultation is likely to be superficial at best, and our CPC MPs (who one increasingly wonders whose interests they represent, us or the PM’s) skirt the issue and fly under the radar.

Council put forward a date and asked for Daryl Katz or a rep from the Katz Group to appear before Council and explain it’s wants and it’s position of funding for the arena project. Perhaps Council should consider doing the same with our local MPs. With more and more of Canada’s population migrating towards urban centres, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing their thoughts and positions on funding transformative urban infrastructure projects.

 

Closure

Update – November 12th.

It’s been about a month since I first sent this to both Honourable members. I’ve not received any replies.

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The following is an open letter which I’ve sent to the Hon. Laurie Hawn (M.P. For Edm-Centre) and Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister responsible for Canada Post), in opposition to the closure of the Mayfield Common Post Office location. It’s a central amenity in an area where reinvestment and services accessible by foot and transit are needed and desired. I consider it’s loss to be a blow to the surrounding communities.

______

Hon. Laurie Hawn, M.P. for Edmonton-Centre
Hon. Denis Lebel, Minister responsible for the Canada Post Corporation

October 15th, 2012

Dear Sirs,

The communities of Glenwood, Canora, West Jasper Place and Britannia-Youngstown here in Edmonton’s west-end once comprised the core area of the old Town of Jasper Place. Once a young and growing municipality, the area, through amalgamation, became part of the City of Edmonton. It grew, to a current population of over 16,000, with a lifecycle that’s taken the area to its current state as mature communities looking for revitalization and reinvestment, new housing options and new amenities.

As a long-term member of the community of Glenwood and the Jasper Place area, I’m writing to you today out of concern and opposition to the imminent closure of the Mayfield CRO post office located centrally in the area within Mayfield Common.

Opened just a few years ago, the location, through its helpful staff, has provided a full range of postal services to the 16,000+ residents of the four communities which immediately surround it, and beyond.  Mayfield Common offers residents a centralized location to access, both on foot, by vehicle and through accessible public transit. Companion businesses within the area allow residents to both access the post office and other shopping needs and amenities within the immediate area. Located on Stony Plain Road, the Mayfield CRO is both surrounded by and on a main strip with a growing number of multi-unit residences.

Within the surrounding communities, as of the 2008 census, are over 1,600 residences which do not own a vehicle. As well, as of 2012 civic census, 20% of residences utilize public transit as their primary means of transportation from home to work. Seven percentage points above the city average.

Furthermore, the nearest postal outlet, located within a corner pharmacy at 155 Street and Stony Plain Road, is within a property which has been identified by the City of Edmonton, as one to be acquired and removed in order to accommodate the eventual construction of the City’s West LRT Line.

The importance of local amenities and services, accessible to an area of increasing density and increased demand for walkability and transit access, is obvious. The loss of the Mayfield CRO removes an important local service from some of those who need it the most, while the alternative locations are either distant or fail to offer the same level of services such as P.O. boxes.

As an area resident who makes frequent use of Canada Post’s service, I can’t understate my appreciation for its place in the community. Whether I’m sending mail or packages, arranging a mass mailing for an election campaign, or just buying stamps, the location is local, handy and easy to access, and the experience and help of the staff is most appreciated.

I ask you, I urge you, to help take action to prevent this closure. A single full-service Post Office location may not seem like much on the national scale, but here, at the local level, in an area in need and in want of reinvestment, revitalization and local, walkable, and transit friendly amenities, its presence while not large or flashy, is very much desired, welcomed, and appreciated.

Sincerely,

Jamie Post

Tower Over Me

City council at odds over cell tower bylaw

“We get a lot of push back from communities,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of anyone giving their phones back.” – Stephen Mandel

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I spent my morning at City Hall for the Exec Committee discussion on cell tower policy, helping to give the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues’ presentation. In that vein and based on some of the comments made by the Mayor and members of Council, I’ve got a bit of a rant to go on:

We all need a roof over our head. And we have policy and bylaws to manage built-form, land-use and public consultation. Wanting these processes to be clear, consitent, and enforced by the powers that be doesn’t make one a hypocrite, or opposed to housing in Edmonton.

We need roads and sidewalks in our communities. And when rebuilding them through neighbourhood renewal, the city has a process to consult with and hold a dialog with the community on the work being undertaken. Wanting that process to exist, and to be a part of it sure doesn’t mean that residents want that work stopped or held up.

We all put trash out, but it’s disposed of properly. Not say, dumped at the end of an alley where if you come out to complain, someone is there to say “Hey, it’s your trash. What are you complaining about?”.

Because you have a cell phone, or a tablet, or an air-card, or plan to use one or more in the future, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of place asking that your municipality have a clear and consistent plan to address land-use & consultation in it’s response to demand for cell tower locations and their integration and design. Even though, yes, the City does yield the final decision in the process to Industry Canada. It’s not “NIMBY” or an attempt to “slow the process” to ask that the most local form of government give this issue that same consideration and attention that it does to other local infrastructure, amenities, and other forms of land-use. That the policies involved be consistent, navigable, and that they don’t provide civic administration with overly broad discretion to alter the process as they see fit.

I hope to see a higher level of debate when this issue returns for a final decision.

/End rant

Of Plans and Planning

The City of Edmonton is currently beginning the process of developing an area redevelopment for the Jasper Place area out here in the west-end. The Jasper Place Revitalization strategy approved by Council a few years back established area planning as a priority for area residents, but getting to this point wasn’t exactly easy. At least for those of us who made the trips to Council to lobby for funding for the project, and who lobbied a Sustainable Development department with a stated limited capacity to develop a small handful of land-use plans per year, and a growing waiting list comprised of mature neighbourhoods and transit oriented development areas.

In Jasper Place, one could take the position that even the ‘plans’ have plans. The Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy, the 100th Avenue Planning Study, The Canora Neighbourhood Improvement Plan, the Britannia-Youngstown Neighbourhood Planning Study, and The Newman’s Resoultion (not really a plan per se, but a resolution put forward by an area Councillor a few decades back that affects landuse in West Jasper Place, so we’ll throw it in as well). As well as an Urban Design Vision for Stony Plain Road. The effectiveness of at least three of these, during their time in effect, is questionable at best and they’ve reached the point where it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to put them in a blue bag on the curb. The Newman’s Resolution, a statement that all new infill in West Jasper Place should be entirely RF1 (single-family) is decades out date with a civic desire to allow appropriate increases in density in mature communities.

As for the JP Revitalization Strategy? It never gained significant traction in the community, becoming something far more heard of, than actually seen. Some of it’s goals were simply never followed up on, such as a plan to redevelop the Butler Park/JP Transit Terminal area into an inviting public square with multi-unit developments surrounding and retail to serve residents and transit riders. Others were impacted by issues such as the on-going debate over the west-lrt alignment, which left uncertainty hanging over all involved. And Like other ‘official’ revitalization efforts, it’s considered a limited time opportunity, as the city eventually shifts resources on to other plans in other communities.

So, what’s a better, more efficient, easier for all involved way to do all this, to address land-use, revitalization, community vitality and engagement? I think the answer, or rather ‘a’ answer can be found in Vancouver and it’s “CityPlan” process.

Below is the Riley Park/South Cambie Community Vision plan.

The plan carries the weight of Council and Administration support and is supported by an independent committee of community members. Unlike a policy document which the majority in a neighbourhood probably don’t even know exists, this can remain fluid and relevant. Crafted with community stakeholders, and supported by the same, it can continually be updated, and overseen by those it affects the most.

Amenities for cyclists and pedestrians in Old Strathcona, addressing a lack of park space in West Jasper Place, preparing for the West LRT in Glenwood, or traffic management, redevelopment pressures, amenities, neighbourhood infrastructure renewal, community revitalization, etc, could all be incorporated. Taking the vision of the community, the needs of the neighbourhood, and giving them the support of civic decision makers, while having implementation monitored at the local level. A comprehensive community plan can incorporate a great deal of policy, and together can achieve a level of community interest. buy in, and sustainability, that where divided they simply do not.

Something comprehensive for a neighbourhood like Vancouver’s “CityPlan”, can also benefit a community by tieing into broader civic policies. For example, by identifying where something like the upcoming Complete Streets guidelines or the Corner Store Revitalization Project could apply within the community, and seeking buy-in from the relevant stakeholders.

As a Community League Civics Director, I know I certainly wouldn’t mind trading some of the continual, individual policy battles for something comprehensive that the community can buy into for the long-haul.

Building Up – Discussing Density in Edmonton

Pulled from the CarbonTalks.ca, Density in a City of Neighbourhoods – Dialogue Report, I’ve put together a survey based on the report’s discussion guide. The report was obviously written with Vancouver in mind, but with civic policy such as the Residential Infill Guidelines, Transit Oriented Development Guidelines, and The Way we Grow (municipal development plan), the questions are very much relevant to Edmonton as well, as the city looks inward and upward for future growth and development (enter any sarcastic comments about on-going urban sprawl or the state of the developing “Growth Coordination Strategy”, here).

The survey is a personal research project for myself and my volunteer commitments to my Community League and other community-oriented organizations. Whether you complete all the questions, or just a few, your feedback and ideas on this subject are very much appreciated. Thank you.

Click here to begin!

Dizzy

The City of Edmonton says it can’t ‘affirm’ his economic claims, Councillors say they don’t know what he wants, and to date we’ve been threatened with relocation to Hamilton, Houston, Quebec and Seattle by two different owners of a team that’s been rebuilding for 20 years. If anyone wants the ride stopped so they can get off, I don’t think you can be blamed. The Mayor has set an October 17th deadline for Mr. Katz or representatives to appear before Council, although what would happen if they’re no-shows as the deadline comes and goes is..undefined. I’ve written on the arena a few times before, so until something actually moves other than politicking and posturing, I think I’ve said my piece.

The comments from the Mayor about the two sides being ‘far apart’ despite the existence of an approved financial framework are interesting. To that end, I went looking for old news articles from the time of it’s approval for comments from the Katz Group. Just to try and glimpse their level of support for the framework at the time. Anyway, in the process I compiled a number of articles from the past several years. Time clouds details, and it’s interesting too see the specifics that have been washed out from memory. If you’re interested in some arena-saga nostalgia, check out the collection below.

More confusion over Katz plan

Skepticism, tough questions must stick to arena debate like glue

NHL commissioner adds his say about downtown arena

Research on downtown arena has cost Edmonton $450K

Oilers bid makes arena plan more feasible: councillor

Mandel sets Oct. 17 deadline for Katz Group to spell out arena demands

Concern grows over the future of Rexall Place

NHL’s Bettman asks mayor for meeting on arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Angry taxpayers protest arena

Ex-NHL owner disputes arena economics

Mayor, Katz Group to meet with NHL commissioner in New York

Arena funding model mulled

Edmonton arena deal within reach, mayor suggests – Edmonton – CBC News

Alberta looking at funding Edmonton arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Stelmach, Mandel meet to discuss proposed downtown arena

Oilers owner Katz drops arena non-compete clause

Arena funding hot topic at public hearing – Edmonton – CBC News

Katz sets the record straight in a letter to Edmontonians

Edmonton, Katz Group agree to $450M arena deal | Hockey | Sports | The London Free Press

Oilers talking about move to Quebec City?

Downtown arena framework approved – but not all convinced

Arena decision reaction

Katz Group postpones public hearing

No federal money for downtown arena

Edmonton mayor wants vote on downtown arena

 

 

 

Base of Operations

Earlier this week the city’s Sustainable Development dept and Fire Rescue Services held an open house in the west-end regarding a proposed Fire Station in Suder Greens (Lewis Estates) and a related amendment to the Neighbourhood’ Structure Plan.

The map in the presentation below shows a growing gap in the west-end’s fire coverage, and based on coverage, public safety, projected growth, integrated response, and several other factors, Fire Rescue clearly sees a need a to move ahead with providing a base of operations for it’s services in the area.

The Google map below shows another gap in emergency response in west Edmonton. The stationing of Emergency Medical Services responders. Three stations (Glenora, Glenwood, and Callingwood) from 142st west-ward, are responsible for providing EMT and ambulance services up to the city limits. As with Fire Rescue, no stations exist west of the Anthony Henday.

A worthy question is; why, with the city making an investment to fill a service gap and place additional first responders in the west-end, is the Province of Alberta, and AHS, not taking advantage of an opportunity to co-locate at the proposed facility? It’s a question which was posed at the meeting by Councillor Linda Sloan. Officials in attendance responded that AHS had in fact been contacted but had declined the colocation opportunity.

With a growing service gap, and the opportunity to reduce costs by working jointly with the city, why not take advantage of potential cost savings during difficult economic times and work with the city to add ambulance capacity to the site, even if there is a hesitancy to station ambulances and EMTs at the facilitie’s immediate opening?

Both services are intertwined, with dual responsibilities and joint responses. Not taking advantage of this opportunity, could and does appear to be very much a short-sighted, or grossly overlooked opportunity to provide care to a continually growing section of the city. This in addition to the effect on established areas as their existing ambulance services are stretched out into the west-end and beyond the Henday.

A need exists, as does the opportunity for AHS and the province to help fill it. What could be better than to do so jointly with both groups of first responders and the municipality, and in a timely and cost-effective manner?


View Edmonton EMS in a larger map

Suder Greens Fire Station

Community Day

“Very quickly however, the community league’s focus advanced beyond its district infrastructure to include social and recreational needs. The league organized social functions and conducted sports events that brought residents closer and fostered their sense of being part of a community” – Ron Kuban (Edmonton’s Urban Villages – The Community League Movement)

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Car shows, corn roasts, BBQ’s and more, over 90 communities held events across Edmonton for today’s iteration of the now annual Community League Day. This on top of events such as Glenwood’s Party in the Park which have already or will take place as summer comes to a close.

The Community League movement got its formal start with the creation of the Crestwood Community League in 1917. Community and resident groups are a staple of community life in cities and municipalities across North America, however few can claim the uniqueness and the role in the creation of a city, the way Edmonton’s Community League system, and the thousands of volunteers over the past century can.

Events like those today, help foster community. They’ve always done so, however when the demands on our time are greater than ever, when volunteer ranks and connectivity between neighbours in a community easily can and do become strained and detached, their importance can only increase. In the early days of our city, these events helped to build neighbourhoods. Now they serve to reconnect and even revitalize the same.

So as Edmonton’s population inches ever closer to the million mark, as new neighbourhoods develop, as older ones find themselves in need of care, revitalization, and reinvestment, and as the City of Edmonton finds itself having to adapt and provide a greater number of programs, projects, and services; How does a community league system with a century of experience mold itself to these changes and a new generation of Edmontonians?

The value of community leagues in advocacy and reaching into politics from the grassroots level is unchanged, and perhaps carries even greater importance with current public policy being pulled upon in multiple directions by more entities than ever before.  The role, the duty of civic government, for both elected representatives and public servants is that of openness and transparency. If volunteers hit a wall, if public consultation is neither accessible, proactive and rewarding, volunteers will burn out and fade away. The same is true if that grassroots voice finds itself unheard, rather than represented in civic governance and direction.

For league’s themselves, the cost of building and maintaining amenities, and providing services to a community cannot be done without municipal support. It’s not just capable Community Recreation Coordinators to work with and support volunteer boards, but making resources to repair, revitalize and if necessary help rebuild older halls, or facilities in new communities. As well as to allow the EFCL to explore avenues such as volunteer training, and new methods of connecting with Edmonton’s now 150+ leagues.

Finally is the outreach at the most local of levels. For individual boards, the tools for doing so have never been more plentiful. Digital outlets; a website, Twitter account and Facebook are simple to use, require diligence but minimal time to maintain, and are wide reaching. It’s hard for a community member to become engaged when information is limited, out of date, or just simply unavailable altogether.

And when community residents do make the decision to volunteer, whether it’s for a special event or by making the commitment to join the board or a sub-committee, it’s so important to offer a welcoming environment.  I joined the Glenwood Community League as it’s Civics Director with no first-hand experience with the community league system, and with the support and encouragement of my board, within the year I was representing the league at public hearing, maintaining our digital presence and moderating town hall meetings. It’s a privilege to be able to serve one’s community and all voices, ages, and backgrounds should be allowed and warmly welcomed at the table. Differing opinions are a fact of life. They should be respected and lead, not to closed doors, but to healthy debate within a league and/or between the league and civic government.

The community league system is strong, but fragile. Experienced but having to continually adapt itself to the times. Blessed with numerous dedicated and excellent volunteers but always open and need of more. Community league day is a snapshot and a reminder of the value of this movement, lets make sure its future is sustainable, and its value as a service provider, as an advocate, and as a city builder isn’t forgotten or allowed to wither.

For Immediate Release – Please, sir, I want some more.

The Katz Group is back to City Council (not in front of City Council though, once again City Admin has to play middle-man), with financial concerns with the proposed arena’s contentious financial framework.

Major stumbling blocks threaten Edmonton’s downtown arena project

“The Katz Group’s concerns have grown as it’s become clear, to them at least, that to building a proper arena is going to make more than the $450 million for the arena and $50 million for the Wintergarden pedway.”

I think we all know $450 was unrealistic, a number produced and clung to mostly for political reasons. The missing millions have always been the elephant in the room, somewhat covered up by a room divider with “Province of Alberta” and a happy face scrawled on it with a sharpie. The province was never going to do more than leave some MSI money on the table for the city to re-purpose towards the arena.

So to get to $450, on the city’s end, it channels $100 million from the province, $45 from a CRL, $80 from *other sources*. As well, outside of that, it spends, an estimated, $25 million on land purchases, up to $25 million on a pedway, and up to $17 million on LRT connections. In addition, if other levels of government are willing to help out, the city will spend *an estimated* $7 million on a community rink. Above this, the City of Edmonton will spend $20 million over ten years, entering into ‘marketing/branding partnership’ with the Oilers. It also surrenders operating revenue from the facility, as well as its naming rights.

I certainly don’t see a lack of will here by Council to have a deal done. In reality it very much appears to be the Katz Group, through strategically placed third-party opinion, and requests behind the veil through city admin and ‘in camera’ discussion that’s the stumbling block, as it attempts to nickel & dime a better deal for itself, or for some other reason we haven’t yet stumbled upon.

And, as per the letter in the article, Councillors are once again denied the opportunity to speak directly with the Katz Group. Why City Councillors, the directors of the corporation of the City of Edmonton, don’t have the business partner with which they’re choosing to enter into a multi hundred-million dollar project, at the table with them in their choosen forum is beyond frustrating for this Edmontonian and politico.  Just as I’m sure it is to some Councillors, having to watch the City Manager and staff shuffle messages back and forth.
I’d like to see a downtown arena and surrounding district develop…in the “nice to have” as the coliseum ages and we focus on downtown development sense. Not in the ‘we absolutely need this to grow and create a vibrant city’ one, a turn onto a road which can leave a city with a bad financial deal and debt for a long time.  To quote from a book I’d highly recommend to any urbanite “The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren’t structures; cities are people.”  These things are amenities, they play a role in local economies and civic pride, but the life, rise and growth of a city extends well beyond it’s rink, and place on the pro-sports map.  The same is true for our downtown, which comprises obviously more than just an ‘arena district’ and will grow and under-go revitalization and reinvestment regardless.

The onus is on Council to create the best arrangement for the city. They’ve clearly made a commitment and offered up/sacrificed significant political capital to put a financial framework in place.  Expecting other orders of government to step in a make-up the difference was politically expedient but a structural failure point to which no alternatives were put in place. The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, with somewhat convienient timing, has leaned on government to make-up the difference. As has our city’s partner in this arrangement, today. It’s time the Katz Group put it’s financials on the table, and itself at microphones in front of Council so our civic decision makers can finally see if our partner here has the cash or even the will to fill in the blanks in financing and make this thing happen. At that point, we can begin to plan what happens next. As per today’s motion, Council may be ‘committed’ to the existing funding model. But that doesn’t mean it’s not….insufficient to the point, that without a partner willing to answer the cash call, we should perhaps move on to alternate visions for the area, rather than wittling the project down just to make it happen in any form.

Vetoneuve

Edmonton City Centre Airport a Done Deal

Krushell said medevac is a red herring.


“We want to ensure there’s a system in place that addresses that, but International (airport) has plenty of capacity and so does Villeneuve,” Krushell said.


Mandel mum on details after Smith meet-and-greet

“He assured that they’re not going to close the city centre airport until there is another option” at Villeneuve airport, now undergoing upgrades west of the city.

 

Quarterly Update of the Redevelopment of the City Centre Airport

Edmonton Regional Airports Authority advises that land is available at Edmonton International Airport and at Villeneuve where a tenant/Medevac could design and construct a new hangar sufficient to replace their existing space at Edmonton City Centre Airport, within one year.

 

Kim Krushell – City Centre Airport

Training pilots do not pay landing fees in the same way as other users of the ECCA that contribute to the operational revenues of ECCA. Furthermore, the training pilots take off and land from ECCA, but they do most of their actual training at Villeneuve or the International Airport (EIA).


There are 21 aviation-related leases in place at the City Centre Airport, which includes businesses like the Edmonton Police Services and the Flying Club. All of these businesses can be accommodated at either the Edmonton International Airport or the Villeneuve Airport.


Economic Impact Study of Villeneuve Airport and Cooking Lake Airport – 2006

Villeneuve Airport is the primary flight training facility of the Edmonton region. Businesses

offer flight training in a range of aircraft, including helicopters, and the site is often host to

air cadet glider training.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports generate direct employment in the Edmonton region

and contribute significantly to the Alberta economy. The significance of the airports in

terms of the provincial economy is demonstrated by the direct economic impact of the

airports’ employment on GDP and output; of $8 million and $20 million respectively – total

impacts of $18 million and $43 million using economic multipliers.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports are also important generators of taxation revenues

to all levels of government. Total taxes paid on an annual basis, by employers, employees

and airport users, are estimated at $2 million. Combined tax contributions for the two

airports amounts to $1,300,000 to the federal government, $500,000 to the provincial

government, and $200,000 to their municipal governments.

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If I’m a resident of Villeneuve, I might be mad or at least perturbed that future development in my small community was vetoed at the Capital Region Board level by Edmonton and St. Albert. I might find some humor in the fact that St. Albert’s airport closed several years ago, and that Edmonton’s City Centre Airport is soon to be redeveloped (a good thing if done well, worth some grumbling if fumbled). And I might be prepared to ask why Edmonton, having made the case for Villeneuve’s growth itself, now chooses to stand in opposition.

The quotes and news picks above could easily be thrown in with clippings from the ECCA closure debate, which made the case for Villeneuve as a home for flight training, aircraft movements and even medevac operations moving from the City Centre.

The Capital Region Board’s Land Use Plan establishes residential density targets of 30-45 units per hectare.  Ensuring sustainable land use, that a municipality has the density required to afford it’s infrastructure, services, and the viability of local amenities is a shared responsibility in the region.  And an area plan that contravenes reasonable targets for density and housing options should indeed expect to be met with opposition at the CRB level.

And In Villeneuve, a case could well be made for a variety of housing types, outside of single-family units with rolling back yards in a proposed plan that falls outside of the region’s land use planning mandates.  Affordable/rental townhomes or apartments for pilots in training who won’t be in the community long-term.  Options to accommodate a growth in population that’s going to be tied to increased usage of Villeneuve airport, and the industrial/commercial amenities which arrive to support it.

The case now becomes, should the municipality and developer reapply with a plan that accommodates multple housing and density targets, what is the board to do?

But staff at the Capital Region Board recommended against the project because Villeneuve doesn’t sit in any of the board’s designated priority growth areas.  

Villeneuve may not be in previously established priority growth area, but with the emphasis placed on their Hamlet through the closure of the ECCA and St. Albert airports, Villeneuve residents who don’t pay close attention to politics or civic policy could probably be forgiven for thinking that they were.

The CRB shall review the priority growth areas in conjunction with, or subsequent to, the approval of: a.   Changes to the routing of Light Rail Transit (LRT) or regional bus service in the Capital Region Intermunicipal Transit Plan; b.   Creation of new or significant adjustments to major employment areas in the Plan area; and c.   New alignments or changes to alignments and/or location of major regional infrastructure.

Villeneuve airport is a piece of regional infrastructure, under the management of the Edmonton Regional Airports Association. It’s been placed into a position where it can expect an increase in usage, a demand for improvements and investment, and potential spin-offs to the area in terms of housing demand and supportive amenities. Perhaps it’s time to draw a circle in the CRB’s priority growth areas around Villeneuve. We want individuals to be able to “live locally” in their communities, and we’ve placed Villeneuve is a position to expect some form of influx of demand.  It’s only good planning, to plan to accommodate it.

Busing Them In

A press release from the Alberta Liberal Party caught my attention this afternoon:

Fewer schools to be built in Calgary – that’s not what Ms. Redford promised, says Hehr

It’s not campaign promises or criticism of government spending policies which stirred my attention, it was this;

The Calgary Board of Education recently announced that it is cutting the number of new schools it is expecting to receive to 20 from 24 in its 10 year plan.  At the same time it is increasing its projections of student growth in Calgary’s suburbs, students that will need to be bussed to inner city schools because of an acute shortage of classrooms in Calgary’s outlying areas.

The emphasis is mine, it’s borne from years as a community advocate and as a resident of a mature/inner-city community.  One that’s working to revitalize and save it’s neighborhood schools.  I posted the following response to the announcement on Facebook.  Whether or not you’re a resident of a mature community or a suburban one, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and this topic.

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There is another angle with which to view this. That being the perspective of inner-city communities who are struggling to revitalize, to attract young families, and to maintain their community schools and transform them into “community hubs”. When an inner-city school is put on the chopping block, for the community’s children, bus rides, whether to another part of the city or a more suburban school become a fact of life, and this seldom seems to be a consideration in the final decision. If we’re concerned about the sustainability of our cities, then perhaps some suburban funding commitments should be re-evaluated.

As a resident of a mature community which has seen a school closure, I see neighborhood children now riding the bus out of the community when their parents who grew up here, once walked to school. Why should bus rides continue to grow in a one-way direction to the out-skirts of the city? Why is the prospect of busing some students to existing infrastructure within the city, treated with such disdain? New neighborhoods eventually become older neighborhoods in need of revitalization and reinvestment. Continually expanding outward isn’t a solution, looking inward and taking advantage of what we already have is. If a few inner-city schools find new life educating suburban students, if this provides an incentive to consider living and raising a family within an older community, if this encourages reinvestment in older infrastructure, and all it costs is a longer bus ride, I’ve no problem with that.

The Victor Post Fonds

An accomplished generational talent, lost to us far too soon.  If you have an interest in photography or just want to see some wonderful images captured on film, why not take a trip to the St. Albert Musée Héritage Museum this summer.

The many, many photos of Victor Post

Major acquisition bolsters Musée’s archives

It’s possibly the most substantial and most substantive collection of photographs that has ever been amassed in St. Albert. Now, the Musée Héritage Museum has its hands on it and the public is already starting to see why it’s so important.

It has been 11 years since Victor Post succumbed to his battle with Crohn’s disease, but his legacy lives on. In 2003, there were two very fine retrospectives of his work at the Musée and the Profiles Public Art Gallery, now known as the Art Gallery of St. Albert. The city hasn’t seen anything since then.

That all changed last week. The museum announced on Thursday that the Post family had donated the entire collection of his papers and a substantial volume of his photographs, and his camera collection as well.

FOIPed

Alberta to make more data public

“We are looking at the best practices from around the world to help us achieve this goal. This will mean that Albertans will be able to access government more than ever before in an interactive and user-friendly manner.”

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In an interview Tuesday, Bhullar was short on specifics. The government has not established a working committee, set deadlines or started consultations, he said, but there is commitment to transparency.

 

Criticism of Alberta’s FOIP rules and access to information is nothing new, nor is it exactly undeserved.

New report says Alberta’s FOIP laws worst in country

Proposed amendments to Alberta’s access law slammed

From reviews of Alberta’s access to information laws, there seems to be nowhere to go but up.  And if the Gov truly is interested in becoming a leader in providing citizens with access to their government, then it’s the citizens of Alberta whom it should be turning to for guidance and direction on this.

Yes citizens can hold MLA’s and government accountable on this subject, but at the end of the day, or the election, it’s obviously not been access to information that’s been at the front of voters minds during the past several elections.  It certainly hasn’t dominated debates or lead to the defeat of Ministers responsible for the administration of the FOIP act.  And frankly, there’s probably little in the way of a political hit to be had should the government continue on sticking to some of the most restrictive FOIP rules in the country, standing in the way of information seekers.

However, if this is a legitimate endeavor to lead the country and even North America in allowing citizens access to government information, then the folks who fill working committees, steering committees, advisory groups, etc, in this endeavour, are the folks who have tried & failed and banged their heads against the wall of information regulations over the past decade.  Who better than citizens who volunteer their time to try and hold government to account, who  better than citizens-at-large and advocates of transparency to help guide this process?  Yes, we live in a representative democracy, and yes we elect people to run and serve and be the stewards of government.  And in terms of transparency, our government has a track record that’s difficult to defend, and I’d argue a lack of objectivity that could well obstruct this process and cause it to fail to deliver any real reforms.  This is about the citizens of Alberta, and their right to transparency, access and information.  And it’s through the direction of citizens that this process and potential reforms should flow.