Home » City Council

Tag: City Council

It’s not “crap”, it’s just not very good.

molson

I promised myself at one point this past winter, that I’d make the time to head down to the Molson Brewery and spend some time taking pictures of brick, and masonry..and history. Passing by the site today, I see that a dismantling of the Molson sign has begun. It might have started a while back, but I noticed it today. If were moving forward with an unpopular development proposal for the site and expecting media cameramen to make an appearance, I’d probably pick this as a good time to have an iconic feature removed from view.

Folks in Oliver have a great community league. It’s active, it’s engaged, it’s forward thinking, and it’s home to the next generation of volunteers on which the future of the community league system will depend. As a community league civics director, and as a member of the Federation of Community Leagues Planning Committee, I’ve been impressed by how they’ve approached the proposed redevelopment of the Molson Brewery over the past year.

Identifying concerns with the site’s proposed rezoning, it’s amenities, and a lack of residential uses on a downtown property along a major transit corridor; The Oliver League has connected with all the right people. They’ve held community meetings. They’ve developed positive recommendations and have been ready and willing to work with city planners and the property owner to develop something positive for the area, for downtown and for the preservation of it’s history.

And today Council passed a proposed rezoning which pretty much ignores all of that. The kind of decision that ends with volunteers leaving forehead sized dents in the fabric walls outside Council Chambers.

The Mayor and Council that famously promised “no more crap” didn’t exactly pass crap today. They just did what they’ve frequently done over and over again, in simply accepting what was deposited at their door. Councillors are meant to be the keepers and dreamers of a city’s vision, someone else could be the status quo rubber stamp society.

It’s the legal role of the Sustainable Development department to process applications to rezone a property. And herein lies my challenge to the next Council that will take shape at the end of October.

Rebuild the road that leads to you.

It’s the job of planners to prepare zoning applications and bring them to Council. They don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to recommend them, they simply have to prepare them for Council’s consideration. Outside of that, our planning and development process is open to a world of change. We don’t hire individuals trained to simply process applications. We hire educated, professional urban planners. Minds that can interpret and articulate a city vision. That can work with engaged stakeholders and incorporate input from all sources into a recommendation for Council.

Council could have sent today’s rezoning application back to city administration for reconsideration. Or city administration could have gone to Council with an additional alternative proposal, built collaboratively with all interested parties, and with our planners’ own sense and vision of what they want for the core of our city.

Voters will pick new faces for Council in October. Which of those, if any, will take on the role of changing the face our city’s administration. The city has hired some excellent individuals to work in it’s sustainable development department. Encourage them to come to Council with more than cookie-cutter proposals built on narrow vision and input. Developers in Edmonton aren’t known for being particularly experimental or open to taking risks. Don’t be afraid, current and future Councillors, to say ‘no’ once and awhile, and show them that the risk they perceive, might just be a great development that a community wholeheartedly wants.

Edmonton Molson brewery site rezoned amid controversy – Edmonton Journal

Edmonton city councillors approve controversial Oliver plan – Metro Edmonton

Controversial rezoning of Molson brewery site approved by council – CBC News

 

Edmonton Votes 2013 – ‘A Regular Contribution’

It’s the voters of course, or the 30% who do vote, who play the king-makers in civic politics. The path to voters in a civic election, free from party politics, is individual name recognition at the ballot. It’s evidenced in the near overwhelming deference given to incumbent civic candidates in Edmonton, and to those challengers whose past professional lives put their names out in the public domain on a regular basis.

Signs, small and large on lawns and public property, Canada Post mailouts, closets and trunks filled with printed materials, pens, pencils, re-usable bags and other swag – These are marketing tools of a campaign that drive recognition of a candidate. They cost thousands to produce and to get into the hands of voters.

Even those who have established name recognition on their side will spend $50,000 or more before October’s election.

The Journal’s Elise Stolte has done some great work (links below) breaking down the numbers from 2010, and some the early outreach efforts to campaigns by Edmonton’s development community.

Cash for campaigns: Winning a seat at City Hall requires lots of dollars from development-friendly donors

The data: Do developers play kingmaker in civic politics?

Fund raising at the civic level isn’t easy, I know, I’ve tried it. Municipal contributions, in large numbers, come from the development industry. Which in Edmonton is well represented by power-houses like the Urban Development Institute and the Edmonton Home Builders Association. As well as large-scale players such as Stantec, Qualico, Rohit and so on.

They build homes, multi-units, business spaces and towers and take a large part of the time and efforts of Council and Civic Adminsitration. From individual zoning bylaws, to land-use plans, visionary planning documents, municipal development plans and so on.

These are groups and industry representatives that have regular access and key stakeholder status with Council and Administration. That often outnumber other groups or community reps in a city boardroom. That are regular, and large dollar contributors to some municipal campaigns, and that can easily tilt a Council race in one direction through campaign contributions.

To candidates out there, I won’t say not to take a contribution if it’s offered. . It takes money to get elected, to advance a good platform, and that’s a personal decision that some individual campaigns and candidates will have to make.

I will say however, that those contributions do nothing to drive public debate or discussion. Nor do they help to create an equal field for each of a Ward’s candidates to put their materials and ideas in the hands of voters.

To voters, I’ll say that it really shouldn’t matter. The fact that a candidate can’t or won’t spend $50,000 or $100,000 isn’t at all a sign of their ability in or inabilities to serve in office. The fact that candidates trip over themselves to blitz the boulevard with signs coming into your neighbourhood, and your mailbox with the glossiest paper when you get home, isn’t terribly healthy for anyone; you, me, democracy or the environment.

To the Province and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the maximum allowable individual contribution should have been reduced. And the pre-nomination day registration and reporting requirments should have been applied to this election. It’s the 21st century, municipalities could have been ready in time.

To candidates; game on, good luck, and may the best ideas and the candidates willing to implement them, win in October.

Hey Hey Hey Goodbye…

Katz Group puts pressure on potential Edmonton Northlands contractor

Downtown arena may be dead if Oilers owner Katz doesn’t step up

An election is approaching – an unpopular arena funding model seems to become more so by the day – A provincial budget came and went without $100 million in arena funding, leaving the Mayor’s “the money is coming, the money is coming” reality distortion field, bleeding on the side of the potholed road – And a couple more City Councillors have toyed with the idea of possibly, maybe, sort of, voting against the Arena framework as it heads back to Council without the Provincial funding we knew it wasn’t going to get.

Did I mention an election is coming?

Anyway, as it all heads to either a tear-filled finale or a ramming through from throat to rectum, I’d like to offer Council and Council hopefuls a solution, free of charge.

Cut Katz loose.

Aside from a 30+ year lease for the use of the facility for 41 days per year + the playoffs (if any), let’s do it without him. Let’s do it without the Katz drama, the Katz ego, the $20 million marketing deal and the forfeiture of facility revenues. Let’s do it without his meagre investment to be spread out over decades.

I don’t begrudge Daryl Katz for making fantastically one-sided business deals, I just wish my city could do the same. Here’s Edmonton’s chance – cut Daryl out. If we’re going to build it, if we’re going to own it, if the city is going to stretch its borrowing capacity by a half-billion dollars to do this; then let’s run our rink, fill its seats, and profit fully from it.

If we need partners going forward, who have the expertise and the ability to bring shows through the door; Then starting with a trip to LiveNation, City Council can send Simon Farbrother on the road with instructions to fill the barn, not give away the farm.

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.

 

 


 

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.

——–

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.

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.

___________

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.

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.

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

___

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

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

 

 

 

Budget Wants

It’s that time of year.  Winter rolls in to stay, the Xmas shopping season begins, and City Council debates the City budget for the new year.  I spoke at the November 23rd public hearing on behalf of the Glenwood Community League, in support of Community League operating & infrastructure grants, as well as volunteer training.  These come with a city-wide scope that benefits all Community Leagues.  However, as a Jasper Place resident, I’ve got a budget ‘want’ for our neck of the woods, and you’re gonna hate me for it because it’s a big one.  The Grant MacEwan Arts Campus in West Jasper Place is centrally located between the Jasper Place communities, just across 156st from the Jasper Place Transit Terminal, and just feet from the JP station on the proposed WLRT conceptual design.  The building is valued at $37 million.  With Grant MacEwan centralizing its programs, the site could well become available in the near future, while the Mayor has already expressed some support for the purchasing of the building by the city.So why in difficult economic times should the city budget to purchase this facility in the near future?  Good question, I’m glad you asked:

1) The Community of West JP has been chronically short of park space since the old school site was turned over to Grant Mac for the construction of the campus.  Furthermore, the community’s only public park is the school yard of Sherwood Elementary, a school with an uncertain future, while the community hall adjacent to it isn’t getting any younger.  It’s not outdoor park space, but it could become a wonderful community gathering point and recreational facility.

2)  As many residents pointed out at the time, the campus was built chronically short of parking.  Furthermore, the proposed cut through the southeast corner of the 156st/Stony Plain Road intersection by the West LRT will remove most of the campus’ onsite parking.  The Jasper Place area is home to 15,000 residents who can get to and from it without much driving or hassle at all.

3)  The HUM.  The Stony Plain Road Business Association is still in the hunt for a home for their proposed Holistic Urban Market.  There’s more than enough room on-site to house it, and more than enough residential density around it, and coming through future infill to support it, while affording residents another amenity to allow them to ‘live locally’.

4) Both the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor and the four neighboring communities are under-going revitalization efforts.  There are three realms to a neighborhood revitalization – That which the community can do, that which the city can do, and that which land and business owners can do.  The Stony Plain Road Business Association has been active for several years and is looking to take a larger leap with the creation of a local market.  The city is in the process of preparing for streetscape work along SPR, but has much work to do to cultivate and help revitalize local public spaces.  The community itself is long-suffering, having endured numerous delays to local projects, namely those held up by ongoing uncertainty over the WLRT, while losing a number of volunteers along the way.  The purchase of the Arts Campus can positively affect all three – creating a centre that builds pride within the community, helps to support and grow the local business revitalization, and hopefully helps to attract new quality infill development along the way.

Well actually I’ve got two asks, but we’ll talk about redeveloping the neighboring Butler Park/JP transit terminal area into a town square centre, another day.

I’ll hold the ball, and you come running up and kick it.

*First impressions on the news that the new Royal Alberta Museum had joined the Edmonton Expo as a grass stain on Edmonton’s arse after being yanked away at the kick-off (or thereabouts).  At the very least, the analogy of children playing ‘government’ seems pretty accurate*

Wednesday, Edmonton –  City Council approves a downtown arena deal which includes a funding request to the higher powers for $100 million plus a little extra for a ‘community rink’ if they’d be so kind.

Wednesday, Edmonton/Ottawa – The Royal Alberta ‘off again, on again’ Museum is off again after the higher powers break out into an incomprehensible ‘he did it’ ‘no he did it’ shouting match following the announcement of the project’s cancellation/postponement/not gonna happen at least anytime soon…ness.

 

 The 2005 Announcement

2005 Alberta’s centennial federal funding announcement 

The April, 2011, revival announcement

Some April coverage of the announcement from the Edmonton Journal (The Edmonton Commons)

“That’s what we get from Ottawa to commemorate our history and our role in Confederation. A plaque.”

“One envelope has $30 million in it. The other envelope has had $92 million in it.”

“They could fund the project on their own. Fair enough. Carry on,” he said.”

” Fingers were pointed, blame was levelled”

Rona Ambrose Talks about RAM Money

They didn’t think that maybe they should get that in writing?

A night at the museum

“There is a good deal of finger pointing going on…”

 

The Mayor blames Rona Ambrose (for the 2nd time in this calendar year), Rona blames the Province, the Province blames the Feds, Laurie Hawn blames the province, meanwhile science and history in downtown Edmonton are set back seemingly further than hockey and the true story, like with the Expo, is far more likely to come from the pages of a Freedom of Information request than from the mouth of anyone in the triangle of blame.

 

 

 

 

All Wings Report In

City Manager Simon Farbrother fights through traffic en route to report to City Council on arena negotiations between the CoE and the Empir….Katz Group

On September 23rd, Edmonton’s City Council will be holding a special meeting to hear an update on arena negotiations.  Don’t bother going, its one agenda item is ‘private’.

Proposed Arena Project Update – Verbal Report

Sections 16, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

It’s definitely not the first time Simon Farbrother has updated Council in private:

September 14th,

8.3

City Manager Update – Arena Project – Verbal Report

Item 8.3 – Addendum

Sections 16, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 27 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

April 6th,

Verbal Report – Potential Downtown Arena – Update on Negotiated Outcomes Passed

Sections 16, 23, 24 and 27 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

 

March 2nd,

9.1

Update on Arena Negotiations – Verbal Report K. Leibovici

Sections 16, 23, 24 and 27 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

 

If you spend enough time looking through Council agendas, you’ll find that a ‘verbal report’ for a private item isn’t the most uncommon thing to happen in Council chambers.  A several hundred million dollar public investment into a proposed city-owned, privately run facility, with the majority of proposed revenue going to the minority investor is on the other hand, not so common.  While publicly releasing a report may indeed compromise the city’s bargaining position with the Katz group at this time, a deal this large, this controversial, and with so many on-going issues regarding process and transparency, at the very least deserves a paper trail for future decision makers, public servants, and members of the public who may wish to use the Freedom of Information Act to peer into this issue in the future.  Even if it ends up sitting on the shelf, unread by everyone but a city manager, 12 councillors and a mayor for the next several years, there’s no FOIPing the City Manager’s brain.  Having a written report prepared for Council leaves open the opportunity to peer into the arena deal in the future, even if it is post-mortem.

 

*Update, Sept 23

So a public component was added to the meeting 😉

In-Private Discussions
It is the City Manager’s intent to discuss
in public those things that can be
discussed in public.
You can checkout some of the meeting's Twitter coverage at the Edmonton Journal

Mining Disclosure Statements – Part 1

Featuring everything short of crayon, perhaps the messiest paperwork ever to be filed are the campaign disclosure statements from civic elections. The statements from Edmonton’s 2010 election were made public in late April, and while there are more enjoyable things to do than read through bad handwriting and a lack of alphabetical sorting, here’s a rummage through them, starting with the Councillors for Wards 1-4.

I’ve broken it down by “top 5 donors” (a number of donors contributed to a campaign more than once, and while I’ve tried to catch each instance, the forms were scanned, and are not well sorted or searchable so I may have missed a few), “Out of Province Contributions” (as they would have to be returned under provincial rules), “Katz Group of Companies” (Donations from a company belonging to the Katz Group), and “Donations Returned”.

 

Ward 1 – Linda Sloan

Top 5 donors:

1.  Rex & Florence Dales – $5000

2.  Tim Shipton – $5000

3.  Union #52 Benevolent Society – $3410 + $590 Total=$4000

4.  Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30 – $3800

5.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $1000 + $ 590 + $590 Total=$2180

Out of Province Contributors:

D&S Gill Investments – Mississauga, ON – $1000

Dundee Realty Corp – Saskatoon, SK – $295 + $295 Total=$590

Katz Group of Companies

Medicine Shoppe Canada – $250

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 2 – Kim Krushell

Top 5 donors:

1.  Joann & Doug Goss – $5000

2.  Brian Heatherington – $5000

3.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $1000 + $1000 Total=$2000

4.  Alldritt Development – $1600

5.  Jatec Ltd. – $1590

Out of Province Contributors

$0

Katz Group of Companies

$0

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 3 – Dave Loken

Top 5 Donors:

1.  Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 – $2500

2.  Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30 – $1500

3.  Union #52 Benevolent Society – $1500

4.  Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions – $1200

5.  UFCW – $1200

Out of Province Contributions

$0

Katz Group of Companies

$0

Contributions Returned

$0

 

Ward 4 – Ed Gibbons

Top 5 Donors:

1.  Brian Heatherington – $5000

2.  Edmonton Firefighters Union – $2000

3.  Amalgamated Transit Union #569 – $2000

4.  Aurum Industrial Development Partnership – $2000

5.  Alldritt Land Corporation LP – $1600

Out of Province Contributions

Clareview Properties Partnership – Toronto, ON – $1180

Dr. Lee Busse/Eleanor Adcock – Burnaby, BC – $590

Dundee Realty Corp – Saskatoon, SK – $590

1510837 Alberta Ltd. – (address in) Toronto, ON – $200

Katz Group of Companies

The Medicine Shop – $295

Contributions Returned

$0

Make up your mind

There’s an interesting article out in the Edmonton Journal regarding resistance to the proposed downtown LRT corridor (part of the proposed Lewis Estates to Millwoods low-floor corridor).

Of course having been neck deep in the WLRT corridor debate back in the day, there’s a few things that caught my attention, bringing back memories of 2009.

“All I hear from communities, and I hear lots, is that our administration is absolutely intransigent,” Mayor Stephen Mandel told transportation officials.

“(You) say, ‘We will listen to you’, but you have no intention of listening to anybody. You have your minds made up.”

The first being a word (highlighted above) which no doubt gave the senior transit planners in attendance, bad flashbacks to 2008.  The second being my flashback to 2009,“(You) say, ‘We will listen to you’, but you have no intention of listening to anybody. You have your minds made up .”

The 2009 public involvement process for West LRT corridor selection was preceeded by the annual  State of the City address (quoted below)…

Imagine an area like Stony Plain road maybe, with tons of shops and cafes and trendy apartments or lofts above each one. You can live and work on the same street and have the LRT connecting you to everything else, and everything else to you.

It wasn’t easy trying to find value in “public consultation” when the city’s lead decision maker picked his route, and announced it at the podium the day before.  In the end, someone’s gotta make a decision.  In the beginning, sometimes it’s best just to be quiet and listen.

Due Dilligence

Today City Council voted to approve conceptual plans for the West and Southeast LRT corridors.  Administrations latest recommendation to utilize 156st instead of Meadowlark Road was rejected as Council choose to stick to the original corridor, established in 2009 in Transportation System Bylaw 15101.  On the surface, the tone of discussion today leaves me with the impression that the opportunity to serve the retail oriented front-side of Meadowlark Mall facing 87ave & 156st, the opportunity to serve high-density developments in Whitehall Square, and the opportunity to increase population density in the communities of Lynnwood and Laurier Heights, two of the least dense communities in West Edmonton, was sacrificed in order to move this on to detailed engineering and skip the public hearing which would have been required to amend the original bylaw.

Meanwhile, the provincial government is looking at an estimated deficit of $5 billion with a Health System in crisis, while the federal government has seen it’s expenses increase by over $2 billion while watching revenues drop by an even greater sum.  “Fiscal responsibility” isn’t the sole domain of civic politicians, and while it may be easy for a Councillor from Ward 5, 6, 7 ,8, 9, or 10 to move along a contentious LRT corridor in another Ward, it’s just as easy for an MLA from Calgary-Shaw or an MP from Ottawa Centre to look at a request for $2 billion in project funding from a municipality, and vote against it.

There’s no doubt that our municipalities carry a burden that’s hard to shoulder on property taxes alone, and light-rail is an incredible asset to a city, but it can’t be built without support from higher levels of government, and given the current economic realities faced by our province and country, no amount of optimism can change the reality that any possibility of fast tracking the West LRT likely went out the door with Edmonton’s Expo bid.

We’ve definitely seen a desire from Councillors to put the issue of corridor selection to bed.  Yes, this LRT expansion is decades over due.  Yes, the contention over the West route must have seemed like punishment to many Councillors.  Yes, city administration needs an approved conceptual plan to move on to detailed engineering, Yes, Councillor’s time to debate an issue is limited, Yes, the massive debate that began with an 87th avenue proposal took a large amount of Council’s time, and Yes, the City will need to have a route approved and shovel ready to seek the provincial and federal dollars needed for construction.

The realities are that much of the process, contention, and debate surrounding the WLRT was of Council’s own creation, with continual, Council initiated delays, the change of route selection criteria in December 08, and the seemingly public reprimanding of city staff for their original recommendation in favor of connecting West Edmonton to the University area via 87th avenue.  The dollars needed to expand LRT through downtown, and to Lewis Estates, Mill Woods, North City Limits, and Heritage Valley will likely trickle in as the economy slowly recovers. The time is/was available for Council to look beyond the proposed “redevelopment potential” along Stony Plain Road, and look closely at the impacts and risks of retrofitting surface running light-rail through a narrow right-of-way, and active business and community revitalization efforts which can ill afford to be placed in a holding pattern during the years required for funding requests and eventual construction, and compare it with the benefits of a 107ave alignment, a corridor with the right-of-way to accommodate it, the opportunity to provide service to a larger portion of West-Edmonton, and which would likely have been supported by several communities along it, such as North Glenora.

As a resident of Jasper Place, I’m left hoping that this decision will at least be followed by strong action and decision making by Council in support of local revitalization, however the distant timeline for neighborhood renewal in Canora, the lack of consideration for a 100ave/SPR LRT couplet configuration which potentially could have lessened some of the impacts to SPR, and the denial of a one-time funding request in this year’s budget for local area planning, especially given the outdated studies such as the 100ave planning study currently in use, creates concerns about the area’s future over the next 10-15 years.  Many of the problems faced by communities such as Glenwood, Canora, and West Jasper Place have their roots in decisions made by the City of Edmonton in the years following the amalgamation of the Town of Jasper Place, and it’s going to take strong decisions to overcome them.  This West LRT corridor isn’t one of them.

Washington St. – Hillsboro, Oregon
Source – ci.hillsboro.or.us

Turn Right at 107th

Below is a letter to the editor of mine which was published by the Edmonton Journal in December of 2009, just prior to Council approving bylaw 15101, which established among other routes, a west lrt line utilizing Stony Plain Road.

Between presentations to Council, letters, press releases, community notices, FOIP requests, opinion pieces and blog posts, I don’t care to count how many thousands of words I’ve written about the West LRT.  With the ability to connect West Edmonton to the existing line via the University area, the destinations it will be extended to, and the opportunity to build a unified back haul LRT system across our city, I’ll always consider the former 87th avenue option superior to a low-floor line traveling down Stony Plain Road, through a number of accessibility issues, and question marks standing between it and redevelopment potential, before connecting to the downtown circulator and heading off to Mill Woods.

With the Federal Government refusing to advance Edmonton’s 2017 Expo, the sense of urgency to present the West LRT for Provincial and Federal funding is gone, and it showed at a public hearing this past December when Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee choose to advance the proposed West LRT conceptual plan to Council without a recommendation and endorsement.  The public criticism at the hearing, of a flawed, and disjointed public involvement process wasn’t a surprise, neither were some concerns and criticisms brought on by more detailed conceptual planning.  The effect of the expo bid on Council was evident on the hearing’s second day, when Council spent time asking questions of administration.  The process of WLRT selection began with 87th avenue, and seemingly ended with Stony Plain Road, without ever featuring a significant look at 107th avenue, a fact pointed out by Mayor Mandel on December 9th.  The Mayor referenced the limited consideration of 107th avenue, and asked questions relating to the ability to serve the SPR commercial district from a single stop at 156st, and the additional ridership potential of a 107th avenue alignment. Given the time available to ensure the best possible corridor for West Edmonton, I think it would be beneficial for all involved for Council to take the opportunity, beginning on January 19th when detailed conceptual plans on are on their agenda, to begin the process of splitting the West LRT from Transportation Bylaw 15101, and referring the corridor back to administration with direction to begin a public consultation process, and detailed route analysis for a 107th avenue corridor.

Another strong point made during the public hearing in December, was by Councillor Leibovici in regards to the future of the Jasper Place Transit Terminal and Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy.  The strategy, crafted in consultation with the community, and approved by Council in early 2009, included a plan to revitalize the northeast corner of the Glenwood Community, by reconfiguring the JP Terminal/Butler Park area as a multi-use townsquare for Glenwood and neighboring communities.

Like most strategies and work plans in the revitalization area, including the proposed Stony Plain Road workplan, the plan has remained in a holding pattern, pending further decisions regarding the West LRT.  The funding and civic resources currently assigned to the Jasper Place Area, are a limited-time opportunity for the communities bordering Stony Plain Road, and indeed in demand in other locations in the city.  Utilizing 107th avenue for the WLRT provides the ability to serve the Revitalization Area with a future LRT stop, without significantly impacting current workplans and revitalization efforts.

Another aspect that must be considered is the environment which is being created for current and future redevelopment.  An LRT alone is not, and never has been, a single-solution to redevelopment and revitalization potential.  In December 2009, I delivered a case study presentation to Council comparing Stony Plain Road and the proposed WLRT corridor to Washington Street in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon.

Presentation Text

Presentation Pics

Both streets share a similar set of characteristics (accessibility, right-of-way, social/physical environment), with the proposed WLRT providing a similar level of service to SPR as the Max Blue Line does to Washington St.  Comments from Hillsboro note that the vibrancy of area has declined.

It was a quote from George Crandall of the consulting firm, Crandall Arambula, in which referencing Hillsboro, he noted that subtle differences can greatly affect the vitality of the area.  The same consulting firm is drafting the City of Edmonton’s Transit Oriented Development Guidelines , and a related Planning Academy Course.  Through the consultation process for both, I’ve had the opportunity over the past few months to meet Mr. Crandall, and attend several sessions conducted by the firm regarding TOD planning and development.  Throughout the sessions, a number of key themes were stressed as elements of successful TOD retail development (of note for a commercial corridor such as SPR), such as:

Complete Streets

Connection to the Station

Located on a street with curbside parking

Located on a street with adequate drive-by traffic

One item of note in particular was the creation of Transit Oriented main streets, existing adjacent to, not as, transit corridors.

A scenario which would seem to create a far more viable future for Stony Plain Road, should it be provided an LRT transit stop on a 107th avenue alignment, while maintaining through traffic, available parking, and side street access, without having to sacrifice any of it’s access ways, right-of-way, or potential re-development sites, to accommodate an LRT transit corridor.

As I’ve previously posted, documents obtained via a freedom of information request show a negligible difference in ‘potential’ redevelopment sites between 107th avenue and Stony Plain Road.  Combined with the ability to still provide rapid transit access to SPR and it’s neighboring revitalization areas, without significantly hindering local revitalization, the enhanced right-of-way along 107th, and the potential for increased ridership, with time available to consult the communities involved, and develop a conceptual plan, Council would do well to take the opportunity on the 19th to refer the WLRT back to administration.

__________

As an active participant in the West LRT debate, I read with interest Paula Simon’s latest foray into advocacy for the Stony Plain Road LRT corridor. When the proposed amendments to bylaw 15101 started piling up last Friday, it seemed obvious that council was unprepared for two days of significant, well researched, and well-spoken opposition to the Stony Plain Road route.

Since the start of what’s been a long, drawn out, and frequently delayed process for selecting a corridor for much needed and long-overdue light-rail expansion, there’s been no shortage of ideological arguments for the SPR “everything to everybody” route. “It’s a people mover, a commuter route, a revitalization engine for downtown and the Jasper Place area, a streetcar like system to encourage shopping, dining, and walkability like Portland’s Pearl district, the route of the future, a round-the-city link from Millwoods to WEM. But there’s no consensus.”

Before we play fast and loose with a multi-billion dollar investment, there is still a strong case to made for the 87th Avenue route; as well, there are questions to be answered, and potential fatal flaws in the proposed SPR corridor that must be addressed.

The most heavily weighted of the latest criteria for west LRT expansion is Land Use/Compact Urban Form.

As Paula addressed in her article, communities along the SPR corridor are as a whole, far more compliant with the goals of higher density land-use than those along the 87th Avenue corridor.

Unlike their counterparts to the south, they are neither stagnant in terms of growth, nor severely lacking in higher-density housing developments. Citizens of these neighbourhoods enjoy strong ETS bus service to the downtown area, and are less likely to own a vehicle than their fellow Edmontonians in neighborhoods to the south.

The best option for building a compact urban form, and encouraging more residents to leave their cars behind, would be a link across the river which divides our growing city, providing an opportunity to encourage transit use in some of Edmonton’s least dense neighbourhoods.

At the same time it would link the west-end to a bounty of employment opportunities in the city’s second largest employment centre, providing quick, permanent access to the Uof A, U of A hospital, the Stollery and the Cross Cancer Institute, as well as one of the top transit hubs for Edmonton’s existing LRT infrastructure.

At the same time, it would provide such benefits as opening up access to one of our top tourist destinations, and provide an exciting opportunity for much-needed affordable housing for future university students.

That said, the ringer which seems to have won the tug of war between 87th Avenue and SPR is the potential for transit-oriented-development, and transit-oriented development-based revitalization, both of which are by far more mythological than factual in this city and climate.

Can tranist-oriented development succeed in a narrow right-of-way where transit stops will be few and far between, side-walks are narrow, access for persons with disabilities is questionable, pedestrians will constantly have to cross a busy street to reach the centre-lane transit stop, and bicyclists will be squeezed out of the narrow remaining traffic lanes by heavy traffic?

Can it occur on a mass scale at all in a city where it has failed to take hold despite decades of light-rail service in the city?

Yes 87th Avenue will require tunneling under “heritage neighborhoods”, an argument against 87th Avenue which swings dangerously to the NIMBY.

However, there is almost no risk posed to the “historic homes” in question, while never have a small group of river valley residents been promised an isolated, untouched, rural setting in the city’s core, nor have the same been promised that much needed river crossings to connect the city would be kept from the view of their backyards.

At a time when we are setting aside future road expansion for the growth of our transit system in order to reduce the number of vehicles from our congested roadways, we’ve been handed a shining opportunity to build a world-class LRT system along 87th Avenue to serve some of Edmonton’s top amenities. This can be done without compromising any of our arterial or collector roads, appropriating property to accommodate hair-pin turns, or compromising any much-needed revitalization efforts

And perhaps most importantly, it will give us a chance to encourage a new generation of transit riders, rather than simply shifting transit users in a dozen mature communities from one form of transit to another.

Arena District & City Council (Round 2)

On Friday, December 10th, the downtown arena will be back on Council’s agenda.  The meeting package is available, and includes answers to written questions submitted by Councillors following the Katz Group’ first trip to city hall late last spring.

One the more interesting reports included is background information on all the NHL arena’s currently in use.  The currently proposed funding model, a city-funded, city-owned arena with 100% of revenue going to the primary tenant, with the city left to collect revenue in the form of property taxes from new developments surrounding the site would seem to be a fairly unique situation in the NHL.  That said, the report does include a few similar scenario’s which currently exist in the league:

Anaheim Ducks
The team plays in the Honda Center owned by the City of Anaheim and operated by
Anaheim Arena Management, LLC. The facility opened in 1993 and was built by Huber,
Hunt & Nichols for $123 million. The facility was 100% publicly financed and Ogden
Entertainment is assuming the debt for the bonds issued by the city through a 30-year
agreement. On December 13, 2003, the City of Anaheim reached a 30-year Facility
Management Agreement with Anaheim Arena Management, LLC, which gave AAM the
right to manage, maintain, and operate the Honda Center. In the nine years leading up
to the new agreement in 2003, the City had to expend a total of $40.2 million more than
it received in revenues for arena operations. The new agreement was crafted to reduce
the public sector’s responsibilities. Maintenance is now the responsibility of the
franchise through its management company.

Phoenix Coyotes
The team plays at Jobing.com Arena owned and operated by the City of Glendale. The
facility opened in 2003 and was built for $220 million. The arena was funded by a $180
million contribution from the City of Glendale ($30 million in general obligation bonds
and $150 in excise tax funding). The city planned to repay its debt from revenues
generated from activities surrounding the facility. The Coyotes’ owner agreed to pay for
any cost overruns and to repay the city for its investment if the commercial property
surrounding the arena did not generate enough money to offset the city’s investments.
The entire financial plan has collapsed and the team filed for bankruptcy protection.
The City of Glendale is responsible for all maintenance and the costs for the facility’s
construction and new potential owners have each submitted bids that would require
Glendale to assume responsibilities for all construction related expenses and
maintenance. No new ownership group has yet been designated and that team and the
matter remain under the oversight of the bankruptcy judge and the NHL that is operating
the team.

Leadership on Display

Patient welfare and LRT expansion both took a blast through the bow today in the crossfire of party politics.

One of the strongest draws to me in seeking a seat in civic government was the ability of Councillors to act and vote freely based on one’s own conscience and constituent concerns. In the same month where my family was forced to deal with the disastrous state of health care in Alberta, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA, Dr. Raj Sherman took a stand for patients and front-line staff, speaking honestly on the problem plaguing the system.  Today he finds himself suspended from the Tory Caucus. The only physician in the Conservative Caucus, the only physician in the Legislature practicing emergency medicine, is now outside looking in.  There’s no doubt a degree of loyalty is needed for a party to function, however it should never take a front seat over the lives of Albertans.  As a constituent, a future City Council Candidate, and an active volunteer in a community which averages over 420 emergency room visits by residents each year (city average is 346 – source “CofE Quality of Life Indicators), and a witness to the problems plaguing Alberta Health Services and the stress it places on families, I have no problem saying the obvious in that party politics and internal policy is putting lives at risk.

Dr. Sherman now sits as an Independent, pending a return to the Tory Caucus or a walk across the floor.  Regardless, he will have my support in the next election.  The question however is the future of our health system.  Solutions won’t be found in Duckett’s cookies and plans which were quickly drawn up this week.  With the elected official with the closest ties to the health system now sitting alone in the Legislature, the voice for long-term solutions is going to have to grow.  Voters can obviously take that on in the next election, and I do hope health care dominates the discussion at that time.  However, it’s our municipal politicians who I feel also need to take a stand.  Crossing government boundaries is rarely advisable, however the impact of this issue on constituent’s lives is immense, and I feel warrants action, both in public, behind-the-scenes, and through the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

Edmonton’s 2017 Expo bid was also dealt a direct hit today, sinking both it and a number of potential local infrastructure investments by the provincial and federal governments.  With both the Liberals and Conservatives jockeying for seats in the House of Commons, the solution by the Harper government to handling competing funding requests (from Quebec City’s Arena to this) was to give everyone an equal share of nothing.  As I said during the campaign, while not a fan of the event itself, I was supportive of the investment that it could have brought to our city.  Expansion of Edmonton’s LRT system is decades overdue.  For the revitalizing Stony Plain Road area, the debate and uncertainty regarding route selection was harmful to the revitalization’s efforts.  Now designated as an LRT corridor, the longer construction of the WLRT is delayed, the more local revitalization efforts will suffer.  It’s far too early to gauge what provincial funding may be forthcoming in the wake of the deceased expo, and whether local MP’s will be working to secure any federal dollars for local transit expansion and infrastructure work.  As a city, we can pick our MP’s, but we’re still pawns in a national game.  Here’s to hoping our provincial leaders pick up the ball and realize the importance of these capital projects in our capital city.

Neighborhood Renewal

During this year’s election campaign, I mentioned the current state of the community of Canora. A partner in the Jasper Place Revitalization, Canora is home to 3,300+ residents,with a future that affects the 15,000 who who reside in the JP area. The Jasper Place Revitalization is important to the whole, the successful conclusion of which requires addressing the individual needs of each community.  Glenwood, Canora, West JP, and Britannia-Youngstown share a need for long-term land-use planning which incorporates vision over short-term whims in order to provide certainty for the future.  An issue identified over 20 years ago in the 100th avenue land-use study.  In Canora in particular, the glut of RF2 zoning across the entire community is a concern which must be addressed.

Revitalization requires building pride in a community, and encouraging investment.  However the dire state of Canora’s infrastructure is anything but a selling point.  This past week, city administration reported to Council’s Transportation and Public Works committee on the current priorities for neighborhood infrastructure renewal.  The report and video of the committee meeting are available below, featuring a presentation to Council by a concerned community resident.  It’s disappointing to see that as current priorities stand, Canora will not see re-construction of it’s infrastructure until after the conclusion of the JPR in 2014.

Read more

Northern Route

As a Community League volunteer in a neighborhood which was not engaged early on in the West LRT corridor selection process, the timeline of the process which ended with Council’s decision in December 09, was difficult to follow.  In order to better understand it, on behalf on the Glenwood Community League, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the City Clerk’s office for a number of records ranging from Councillor correspondence and Council audio recordings, to public consultation records and internal project team documentation for the 2007 Council term.

The fee estimate from the city to complete the request was $5105.00, obviously beyond the budget means of a Community League.  The FOIP act operates on the principle that the applicant should pay for access to information.  The applicant is allowed to request that the fees be waived when the records in question relate to a matter of public interest.  Given the impact the West LRT debate has had on Glenwood, the Jasper Place Revitalization, and the Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone, I did apply for a fee waiver.  The response from the City of Edmonton was a conditional approval of my request:

After completing an analysis of your request, the City of Edmonton is prepared to grant a fee waiver for this request on the condition that the date range of the request be amended to begin on May 28, 2008 when Council ordered Transportation Planning to begin the planning process for the proposed West LRT line over again.

The minutes of the May 28, 2008 Council meeting are below.  Given that the only item relating to the WLRT is an administrative inquiry and not a motion of Council, I did question the May 28, 2008 start date.  I was put in touch with staff from the Transportation Dept who indicated the change in route planning happened over time through postponements and a change in Council direction.  I was eager to move the request along (it ultimately took 5 months from the date I filed the request to receive the materials), and choose to accept the amended date.

Based on the materials received, and information forwarded to me by the Transportation Dept, for anyone who is interested in the timeline for the WLRT corridor selection, I have put it together below with the relevant meeting minutes, administration reports, Council audio, FOIP materials.

Read more

Community Consultation & New Developments

In response to some of the issues communities face (unclear procedures, timelines, league responsibilities, etc) when it comes to public consultation and new developments, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is hosting a meeting on November 3rd to discuss the issue with a number of stakeholders.  Please see the notice below for more information.

Do you have concerns about the consultation process for development permits or rezoning in your community? You are invited to a meeting with community league representatives, developers and city planning staff to provide input into improving community consultation in the pre-application phase of land development.  The meeting will be held Wednesday, November 3, 7 – 9 pm at the EFCL Office, 7103 105 Street.

Land developers and home owners are encouraged, and in some instances mandated to consult with Community Leagues and neighbours prior to applying for a building development permit or rezoning.

While there are many benefits to having a consultation at the pre-application stage, there are some concerns about the process.

Your input will be used to improve the process and perhaps prepare an information package.

Feel free to invite your neighbours who have been through the building process either as a home builder/renovator or as a neighbour who has been asked to review a development proposal.

All  input is welcomed and  helpful.

Please let EFCL know you are attending.  Contact Bev.Zubot@efcl.org or 780-437-2913.

Who Said What

The Internet Archive is an excellent project, dedicated to building a digital library covering everything from texts, video and software, to archived web pages.  I’ve spent some time lately using it to take a look back at candidates webpages from elections past.  Here are some links to current Councillors pages from 2004 and 2007.

Linda Sloan – 2004 2007

Tony Caterina – 2007

Amarjeet Sohi – 2007

Jane Batty – 2007

Ed Gibbons – 2001 2004

Stephen Mandel – 2004