LiveWire Calgary In-house podcast: Guidebook for Great Communities

City of Calgary overhead view of the skyline - Dec. 31, 2018. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Whoa Nelly!

This issue with a planning document that’s generally speaking a set of language to be used when going through the local planning process has become a beast of its own.

LiveWire Calgary editor Darren Krause had a conversation with Lisa Kahn with the City of Calgary’s Guidebook for Great Communities team to ask some of the pressing questions that Calgarians have about this 131-page document.

There are a lot of legitimate concerns out there – particularly around single-detached homes and whether they will be lost in Calgary’s established communities. There are questions about this being a blanket rezoning of Calgary’s inner city and the protection of heritage properties.

We think, once you have a listen, that you’ll come to the same conclusion as us: The sausage is actually made during the Local Area Plan process. That’s where material public consultation is supposed to happen on where certain land uses will prevail.

If this issue is a concern to you, we urge you to listen to the entire podcast. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, here are some guide posts to help you along the way:

Planning document hierarchy (I know, real sexy stuff) – 2:50 to 11:40

The ‘language’: Neighbourhood local, high density, low density, what can be built: 11:40

Elimination of single-family dwellings: 19:57

OK wait, are you phasing it out?: 24:20

Heritage: 28:50

TREES! 34:50

Is this a document that guides density in Calgary’s established communities?: 38:25

We hope you enjoy the listen. (Transcript hopefully soon… time…)

TRANSCRIPT

Darren Krause: First of all, one of the questions I’m hearing is, is this a statutory document? That meaning it’s not just a guideline, you know, like, like guides on a bowling alley, and you can work within that flexibility. These are like, hard and fast rules that the city will follow.

Lisa Kahn: Yeah, that’s a great question. The Guidebook for Great Communities will be a statutory document. Now, there’s two types of ways council can approve a document. It’s either a statutory, or they can approve it by resolution. They’re both Council approved documents, but the statutory one adopts it by bylaw, so it makes it a bit more accessible and a bit more user friendly.

Now for the guidebook. I know there’s a lot of concerns around the name of the guidebook like it’s a guide, why is it statutory? One of the reasons though, there’s a couple of reasons we’ve named it a guidebook. One is the historical elements of it. Back in about 2011, we did a guide, new communities guidebook, and we called it a guidebook at that time. And so, we wanted to kind of use the same verbiage because we already have guidebooks that are in existence. So, we wanted to keep that going. But more importantly, for this guidebook, it’s more about the fact that it’s a guide for the Local Area Planning (LAP) process. A local area plan is something that a community comes up with to talk about the vision for their community. And the guidebook works with it to give them language.

One of my team members had this great analogy. She said, the guidebook is language, right? It gives communities a consistent language to use. But how they use it, whether they create, you know, a story or a poem or a song – that’s the local area planning process. It can be customized in a bunch of different ways to make sure it’s responsive to that true local area, so that it’s not a one-size-fits-all. And that’s where we get the guide in the guidebook, right? So, there’s dozens of options of policies of how to use the guidebook in a community. Not everything in the guidebook will apply in every community. In fact, a lot of our communities will only use a portion of the guidebook. And it’ll be different depending on what the vision for those communities are. And so, in that respect, it is very much a guide to that planning process.

DK: Now, one of the things, and actually interestingly, it just came up through a tweet. And the tweet was from Common Sense Calgary. They had mentioned that this is a top-down way to guide the development process. And, and I’m assuming by that they meant MDP to guidebook to LAP. That’s also the way that I interpret it as well, the MDP has kind of guided how the guidebook was put together, and the guide book well then govern the local area plans, and am I mistaken in that?

LK: You’re not. And so, there’s two different things, right. One is the hierarchy of plans, which you just stated. We have a Municipal Government Act from the province of Alberta, we have the Alberta Land Supply Act. We have the municipal development plan, then these guidebooks and a local area plan and the land use bylaw, we have this hierarchy of plans. I like to think of the more of like a variety of tools in my toolbox as a planner, to be honest with you, but there is a certain hierarchy to it.

But when I think about top-down government, directing what developments going to look like, I take it more as like people don’t really think that they’ve been engaged in this.

And I really do want to stress the guidebook has gone through years of engagement. We have talked to 1000s of people. We’ve made amendments; So many amendments, the guidebook looks completely different from when it first started. And we’ve done so much engagement and engagement that is truly different. And so I know there’s a lot of quotes out there that I’ve been saying over the past year…but we really wanted to do engagement differently, so that it wasn’t just about getting a select few people to come and tell us about development in their area. It was really reaching out to a wide variety of demographics of genders of ages, races, you name it, and really doing it in a way that isn’t just to go into the people who have the time to talk to us, but making us available for people when they have the time.

And so, we were able to get a lot more variety of citizens and Calgarians coming and speaking to us and talking about what’s important. And so, this whole idea of like, top down, we’re just telling folks what to do, is not accurate. We’ve tried really hard to engage a wide variety of citizens, which not that we didn’t in the past, but we probably just didn’t have as many tools at our disposal.

And now we’re really trying to use all those tools to get a really robust document.

DK: I appreciate the response. However, when I when I hear top down, it has a different meaning, but it doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation. It’s more along the lines of how broad the picture is.

The MDP looks at the overall 60-year development of the city. The guidebook is going to be talking about the redevelopment of a lot of those communities using the principles that are in the MDP. And then you distill it down even further to the more specific aspects through the LAP. So, by my interpretation of top down, would that be correct?

LK: Yeah, absolutely. So it does implement our municipal development plan. And it gives those tools for the local area plan.

DK: I just have one follow up question on that hierarchy and how it might play itself out now. Neither of us have a crystal ball. But in watching some of the planning matters that have gone on at Council, we have policies in place, and sometimes the planning matters that come to council adhere to those policies, or sometimes we don’t approve them based on the policies that the city has. Now, if you bear with me, if we have a situation where there’s a local area plan in place, and somebody proposes something different than what’s in the local area plan, but it falls within the guidelines of the guidebook, are we essentially overriding the local area plan in these matters? Because we’re following the guidebook?

LK: It’s a great question. The simple answer is no. Once we have a local area plan that’s based on the guidebook, they’ll be aligned with one another. The best example I can use is like, if we go through a local area plan, and then three months later, as an applicant, I come in and I say, you know, I want to do this development that’s very different than what you have in the local area plan. Right now, we would have to take an amendment to that local area plan if we want to approve the application.

But we’re really hoping with the guidebook and our new local area plans, that that expectation can be consistent. And so, that if that applicant comes in with an application that doesn’t meet the intent of the local area plan that we can take a sound refusal through to Council.

DK: The intent is obviously for the LAP to be the, I guess, for lack of a better way of putting it, that’s going to be the de facto decision maker, and it’s going to be guided by the guidebook principles. I guess this is where the nuances and I think this is where many people have some of the some of the concerns. If the LAP prescribes one thing that is still within the guidebook, but somebody else wants to do something that for that area is still within the guidebook, the LAP might not apply. Maybe I just kind of repeated it. But I think that’s where the that’s where the nuance is, is we could end up going back to the guidebook documents.

LK: Yeah, so the guidebook doesn’t actually put anything on the ground, right? Like it doesn’t talk about here’s where this goes, or here’s where that goes. It just gives that common language so that the local area plans can take it and then put it on the ground. So, there wouldn’t be this conflict, right. If one neighbourhood or one local area plan uses one of our categories, and they put it on the ground, that’s going to be consistent with that category, regardless of where it gets plugged right. Regardless of which community, it gives folks that, you know, in Canyon Meadows versus Brentwood, it gives them both the same language to understand what that category means.

But whether or not those two communities use that category is up to them through the local area plan process. So, there would never be this kind of going back saying, ‘oh, the guidebook wants this,’ because the guidebook doesn’t actually put anything on the ground. It just gives that language.

DK: Okay, so let’s talk about some of that language, specifically around how the neighborhood, I think its neighborhood local, is being used. What I want to know is what is the different classifications, and what sort of units would apply in those locations.

LK: The guidebook is made up of 13 different categories. Out of those categories, neighborhood limited or sorry, neighborhoods, local is just one category. Neighborhood local talks about our lowest density of housing, and it’s really the majority of our communities that you see with single-family homes or single detached homes, semi detached homes. And, and so that’s what we’re talking about. I want to keep that in mind. Because, when we talk about intensity, folks tend to think like six-storey apartment buildings, and that is not the case.

In our neighbourhood local, it builds off of our municipal development plan policies in established areas, and our municipal development plan already talks about what’s appropriate. In low density areas, and they say, and that plan talks about single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, row houses, secondary suites, backyard suites, like above a garage or something, as all being appropriate, generally throughout our low density areas.

But what the guidebook does is it takes that policy from the municipal development plan, and it builds on it one step further. And it says, in these areas – so we have two areas, Zone A and Zone B – we will divide it up into highest intensity, which would be up to row houses, moderate intensity, which would be up to a semi-detached or lowest intensity, which is a single-detached dwelling. And so that’s all we’re talking about, I want to be very clear, it’s not talking about that six-storey building. That is in a different category altogether. We’re just talking from that range from singles up to row houses. And what it says is that, if you so if you’re in Zone A on our map, which is really tied to our inner-city map that’s defined in the MDP, as well, it uses the same communities that are already prescribed to us in the municipal development. And it says that those communities, if they meet one element of our criteria, they can only build up to a semi-detached. If they meet two elements of the criteria listed in the guidebook, they can only build a single-detached, and that’s on a parcel-by-parcel basis. So, when an applicant comes in, like let’s say your neighbour comes in, and he says, ‘I want to build a row house, and I’m in Zone A,’ I would look at that policy to say, ‘Okay, do you meet one of these policies? Do you meet two of these policies? Or do you not meet these policies at all? In which case he could build a row house if he doesn’t meet those policies?

DK: I have found this spot now, so I know exactly where we are. When we’re talking about Zone A, and we’re talking about the zone B. And as you had mentioned, kind of those step-down policies, so the lowest intensity just so I’m clear, the lowest intensity, is it single family, like single-detached, or does it also include row houses, townhouses, basically single family dwellings?

LK: No, so the lowest intensity is just single-detached dwellings. Okay? Your single with a side yard before your next.

DK: Right, and then moderate? Would that start to get into rowhouses?

LK: No, that is still just semi-detached, side-by-sides, or duplexes, up and downs.

DK: OK, so then it’s not until we get to higher intensity, or higher density that we get to row houses, eight-plexes, that kind of stuff.

LK: Just row houses. Eight-plexes wouldn’t be allowed in that low density area. That is something completely different. When we’re looking at a row house, we’re really thinking like three units on a 50 foot parcel, right? OK, so something like an eight-plex, or like a lot of communities are seeing, like where you’d have four units in the front and four units in the back, and that’s how you get your eight-plex, that wouldn’t be allowed under neighborhood local. That is a neighborhood flex or a neighborhood connector. A different category in the guidebook

DK: Really quickly, again, for my own clarity, you’ve created the language, you’ve created neighborhood local, you’ve created neighborhood flex, neighborhood connector… Now, when we get to the to the LAP, are all the stakeholders able to go look at a map of their neighborhood and go, ‘OK, we’re going to take this little block, this red block, which indicates neighborhood connector, we think that’s good for this area.’ And they place it into their LAP. I’m oversimplifying it here, Lisa, but, but is that essentially how it will work? They can kind of decide where are the best places to put neighborhood local, neighborhood flex, neighborhood connector, all of these different groups when it comes to residential?

LK: Exactly. And not just residential, but all of the categories. It’s actually really cool that you can visualize it like that. Typically, we go out with Lego blocks and we assign a different Lego block to each category. And we say, ‘let’s put the categories on the ground.’

And then we have a discussion with the community: ‘Why did you put neighbourhood connector there? Oh, it’s because it’s the active place, or that’s where I go to get my coffee. So, folks kind of intuitively link different activity levels to different types of categories. And so, you’re absolutely right, like as a community member, I might go in and I might say, you know what, my whole local area is neighbourhood local, but that main street or that Macleod Trail, that’s something different, right? So, I’m going to put a different category there. And there’s no one right way to use the categories. Every community is going to use the categories to different extents, right? And not everyone, not every category has to be used. Okay, so

DK: One more question on that. And I hope you appreciate I’m really just trying to get answers to questions that that people in the community have. So, if I were to do that, and we were to go through the LAP and we decided we decided that, oh, this area we want to the neighborhood local, can the city come in and go, ‘actually, you know what, that’s not what we envisioned for neighbourhood local. That’s what we envisioned for neighborhood flex, actually, because it’s adjacent to whatever – 14th Street Northwest and 20th Avenue or whatever the rationale is. If the community decides one thing, can the city come in and say, but that doesn’t really align with what we think?

LK: There’s two different parts to the answer for that. So generally, no. Generally, through that process of creating that local area plan, we will work with communities, we have some different verbiage to kind of get out of them what they want, so that we’re not trying to put on to the community members that they have to know everything about the guidebook.

Really, we want them to tell us what the activity level is all that kind of stuff. So that then we can say, ‘well, this, this seems to fit better.’ And we would have that discussion with the community. And depending on what that discussion is, it might either be yes, we put this one on the ground, or No, we don’t. The second piece of that, too, is that we want to make sure that it’s not about communities going in and down zoning something. So, let’s say in that case, we probably like stop the community and say, No, we can’t down zone it, right. So, if I was in like a neighbourhood, like if I was on Macleod Trail, and somebody was like, Oh, we just want single detached dwellings on Macleod Trail, as administration, we’d probably go in and be like, no, that’s not appropriate here.

Here’s what the existing is in this area. How do you want it to evolve? And then we had that discussion about how we wanted to evolve. But we wouldn’t go in and say like, oh, you’re on a neighborhood local, and you want it to go to a neighborhood connector? We probably didn’t have that discussion, we wouldn’t say no, we find out why and what that what the underlying reasons are, and then make that determination if that’s the right category or not.

DK: So I really want to get to the probably the biggest question that people have. I could ask you straight up if this guidebook for great communities eliminates the single-family home, and I’m assuming that the answer is just a straight up, no, not at all.

LK: Right.

DK: Now, what I want to ask though, is lowest intensity, low density residential form should be supported where the parcel meets two or more of the following criteria, is laneless, is of a prohibitive parcel shape or size, located on no through or dead end, or cul de sac, contains or abuts an escarpment, or is not located within 600 metres of a transit stop.

That really seems like that’s a pretty specific criteria. Can you tell me how much of these areas whether it’s Zone A or Zone B, would be covered if those rules were in effect?

LK. Yeah, it really depends on each community. Some communities have more parcels that meet those criterias than others. It depends a lot on, you know, the era of the community. A lot of times our historical communities have lanes, were more of our, like 1950s communities don’t always have lanes. It really depends on the community you’re looking at. I know in North Hill is probably one of our lowest areas that would meet those criterias. But even in North Hill, we still found quite a few chunks of areas that that would meet those criteria. What the criteria really do though, is it sets out the expectation for how we as administration review those applications. So, a lot of the times somebody comes in and applies for a row house. And there’s a common misconception that we just approve it that we’re just going to approve every row house that comes in for an application. And that’s not the case.

We wanted to put that in the guidebook so that people knew exactly what we were looking at when making that decision. And a lot of the times row houses are generally appropriate, like our MDP says, in most of our low density areas. But there are certain site characteristics that are really at the light local site level, that help us in determining if that individual application has the merit to be approved or not. And so, we wanted to put that criteria out there for folks to understand when it’s going to be approved from administration’s point of view, or when it’s more likely to be refused.

DK: Do you think that that’s an issue? I know that it’s asking for more of your opinion, because a lot of people might see that as well. You can’t have a single family or a single detached residence in these locations. If you’re within 600 metres of a transit stop, or if you have a prohibitive parcel shape or size… they might think that the city’s put in this criteria to essentially eliminate single family detached in these areas.

LK: Yeah, that’s a great point, Darren. And thank you for bringing that up. I should have said that earlier. So single detached are allowed in all of those. iIt kind of builds on one another. So the lowest one is single, detached, moderate is single-detached and semi-detached.

Highest is single semi rowhouse. So, singles are going to be replaced in areas within 600 metres of a transit stop, as well as we would approve row houses there as well, right, depending on the merits, of course, at that site. But it’s not that we’re saying you can only build a row house. We’re saying this is where we’re most likely to give an approval to a row house. Not that you can’t build a single. We recognize that 56% of our housing stock in Calgary on the low density scale is single-detached dwellings. And that will continue. That’s a trend that we’ve seen remain consistent across the past 10 years. And so single-detached houses will continue to be built and we expect that 56% to stay about 56%. We don’t expect to see that number drop off.

DK: Maybe I can ask this a different way. Because I totally understand what you’re saying, Lisa. From a resident’s perspective, though, perhaps they may see this as if there is going to be any development in their community, it’s going to have to be upsized. Because like I said, I mean, where are we not 600 meters from a transit stop in Calgary? Or, or as you’ve mentioned, you know, there are some communities that are completely laneless. So now, if you if you don’t meet at least two of these criteria, and I know that this is a harsh way to put it, but the single-detached residence IS being phased out. Or do I have that completely wrong?

LK: I would say no. It is definitely not being phased out. We know that redevelopment is going to happen singles to singles. What we’re trying to do is to set clear expectations of where we would approve more intensity than just the single. And so, it’s not like if you’re in 600 meters of stop, we’re only going to we’re going to say you have to build a row house. We’re not. You can absolutely build that single-detached dwelling in that same location. We’re just trying to be consistent and show those expectations of where we might approve something like a row house. And that has been a policy for the past 10 years. So those are those that’s criteria that we’ve looked at over all of our applications since since the MDP has been in effect. And clearly communities are not all of a sudden, you know, wiping out single detached dwellings. I’ll use Renfrew as a great example. Renfrew is actually designated in our land use bylaw as RC2. And that allows for semi-detached dwellings. And it’s been designated that since before 1980. But yet Renfrew still has a ton of single-detached dwellings. In fact, a majority of its low density is single detached, despite the fact that they can build more. We’re still seeing tear downs of houses and replacing with single-detached houses. So, we’re not phasing out the single-detached homes, we’re just adding in that variety and choice where appropriate. OK? Does that help there?

DK: It totally does. I will confess that you, you clearly are an expert on this topic. I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I’m really just trying to get to the simple parts for people to understand because I get it, you get it, but maybe not everybody else does. The bottom line is single-family homes are still going to be allowed. Or I should qualify as a single-detached residences will still be allowed, as long as they meet two or more of the criteria, correct?

LK: Yes, they’ll be allowed even if they don’t meet the criteria. So single-detached are allowed everywhere.

DK: Can you tell me where it says that in the guidebook?

LK: Yes, so there’s two different places. The first one is in appendix two, I believe. And it’s a chart that talks about how to implement the neighborhood local policies. And then the second place is under the neighborhood local category. And if you just give me a second, I’ll open up the guidebook and find what page. OK, so it starts on page 47. It’s section 2.8 of the guidebook. And it talks about that limited scale residential. That’s where it goes through Zone A and Zone B. And it talks about what can be on each of them. For example, … it talks about Zone A, where the highest intensity. So remember, that’s like the row houses that can be generally everywhere unless it meets the criteria. And then if it needs one of the criteria can only be a semi if it meets two of them, (and) the lowest intensity, which is the single as appropriate. But singles are appropriate in lowest, moderate and higher intensity. And that is hopefully helped explained in sorry, attachment two, or appendix two. OK, which has the chart.

The very last page 131 of the guidebook has the chart on it. It says, single detached. It has all of those types of housing that I mentioned, and where it fits. So, you’ll see single-detached is in lowest, moderate and highest intensity. Secondary suites are in all three, backyard (suites) are in all three, semi-detached is only moderate and highest and row houses is only highest.

DK: Oh, my goodness, why don’t you guys just put that out in a tweet for Pete’s sake?

LK: I know, we’ve tried, Darren. And it’s funny. Every time we put something out, somebody asked for slightly different information. So, we think of a different way to put it. I know. Trust me, I know.

DK: I do want to talk about the heritage aspect. When I talked with Ryan, he had mentioned that there are some of the most progressive heritage tools in here. Can you kind of spell those out for me?

DK: Absolutely. So last July, we took forward a report that listed three different policy tools. There was a number of financial tools as well, but I won’t go into those. The policy tools were broken up into three layers, and those three layers build on each other. If I’m in layer one, I can be on layer two, I can be in layer three, like they compound. And so, what the guidebook does, is that it introduces that through local area plan. Once we go into a community, let’s take North Hill because we’ve done a Community Plan there, we go in we do the Community Plan, we have a discussion with the community about the heritage assets.

Now, heritage assets are different than heritage resources. Heritage resources are things that are municipally designated. And I know when I say municipally designated it sounds like the municipality has gone in and designated it. But we actually don’t have any legal rights under the authority from the province to designate houses without owners’ consent. Anything that’s municipally designated has to go through an owners’ consent to apply for it.

Heritage asset though, is something that’s defined in the guidebook, and it’s on page 113. And it’s an asset that’s been evaluated by city staff to say there’s heritage qualities to it, but it hasn’t been designated. So, it’s not legally protected.

So there’s kind of two to those things, right. As the city we do not have the ability to say you are a heritage resource. That has to come from an owner. But we can say you’re a heritage asset, we’ve identified you. And we take that identification to the community. And we’d say here, all the heritage assets we’ve identified, here’s what we can do to help incentivize the protection of those. Because legally, we can’t require them to be retained. Somebody can absolutely come down and knock down a heritage asset. But what we can do is we can put policy in place in that Local Area Plan to make sure that if redevelopment happens, that it’s done in a way that has the sensitive heritage characteristics of that area, done through the redevelopment. Whether that’s height, or cornice lines, or windows or porches, whatever those characteristics are, we can put those characteristics in policy to make sure that new development is reflective of those characteristics.

And so that’s one of the tools that we have in the guidebook is that we are able to do that through a Local Area Plan where we couldn’t do that before. We didn’t have all this mapped out before. And so, we can go through that process. And again, every community will be different because the heritage qualities and every community will look different. Elbow Park will look different than Crescent Heights. And Crescent Heights will look different than Mount Pleasant, potentially, depending on what those characteristics are. The guidebook sets out the policy to do this through a local area plan. And we’ve never had that before.

I was going to say the second thing we’ve also done with the guidebook is put more incentives so that people who have these heritage assets, maybe their first inkling isn’t to knock it down.

So, we have adaptive reuse policies. We also have policies that allow us to give that person a bit more flexibility in terms of what is built, if it retains the heritage asset. For example, we might allow a house that somebody is keeping to have a secondary suites in the basement and garage suite in the backyard, or we might give them a little bit extra development potential for retaining that heritage asset.

So that helps promote the retention of it. But if somebody does knock it down, then we have the heritage guideline tools that are used to the LAP to ensure that that redevelopment is said It is contextually to those heritage aspects,

DK: Was there any thought put in at all to creating a heritage class that could be put into the LAP, like a neighborhood local or neighborhood flex, anything like that? I’m thinking in particular, of neighborhoods like Scarboro or whatever, where they have really… their area is a heritage resource, so to speak.

LK: For Scarborough, we’d go to the local area plan tool. So, we wanted to create a tool. So the guidebook is really like, again, that language that can be used city wide, right? And heritage is very specific to a handful of communities, especially in clusters when you’re looking at heritage assets. Something like Scarborough, even though we put neighbourhood local on it, a lot of that area meets and warrants the criteria to have extra policy in the local area plan to guide that redevelopment.

And so it’s kind of like six of one half a dozen the other. We could have created a typology for heritage and just moved all the heritage policy into that typology. But we knew that it was going to be specific to local areas. And we wanted to make sure that that Local Area Plan had those tools to get down and dirty in the weeds with heritage, rather than just using a uniform category that we could apply anywhere throughout the city.

We also want to be very cognizant of what heritage assets are, and making sure that we’re actually protecting heritage assets and that it isn’t a tool for somebody to come in and just say, ‘I like single detached dwellings, so I’m going to keep this as a heritage.

The single-detached dwelling in itself is not a heritage component. It’s the qualities of that single-detached dwelling, right. So again, whether it’s that porch line, or the setback line, or the trees, or the cornice lines, or the windows, all those factors. And that’s going to be different based on each community. So, we didn’t want to have a one-size-fits-all approach to it. We wanted to get this customized tool that can then be used through the local area plans to do that.

DK: I think the final question I have is around something that’s very near and dear to my heart. It was brought up in a letter by the Renfrew Community Association around trees and the need to make sure that we replaced the urban canopy as we go through this redevelopment process. I confess I have not done a search for urban canopy in the guidebook. But maybe you can tell me what sort of tools are in there to make sure that that remains a part of these great communities.

LK: Yeah, so there’s definitely policies in the guidebook that talk about landscaping and wanting amenities and wanting that urban canopy at a somewhat general level, because it is the guidebook.

There’s a couple of things when you take landscaping into account or a tree canopy into account. So, there’s public trees, and there’s private trees. And so public trees are something that the city goes in and puts in boulevards or city-owned land.

And that, that is something that we can’t… we can’t go through the guidebook to tell another department to go plant trees. We can’t direct where another department spends their funding.

Council would have to come out and say, ‘You know what, we want more public trees in these areas. And here’s where you’re going to get the funding,’ and they then they would direct the business unit to go out and do that.

It’s kind of separate from the guidebook from a public tree perspective. But there definitely is ways the council can get public tree programs going public tree funding. It’s things that we’ve seen throughout the city. I know when we had like Snowtember and a bunch of trees are cut down, there’s funding to replant some of those trees. So that is a different mechanism than the guidebook.

For private trees, our mechanism to regulate private trees is actually in the land use bylaw. So that’s where it talks about when redevelopment happens here of how many trees you have to have, depending on what type of development around it. To put something in the guidebook wouldn’t really help because it’s already located in the land use bylaw. Now, one of the things about the land use bylaw though, is it talks about redevelopment, right? And so typically, somebody would have to be coming in knocking down a house or doing something substantial on a piece of property for us to say, ‘you now need this many trees on this property.’

And the problem with that is that we don’t have a private tree bylaw at the City of Calgary. That’s not something that council’s wanted to pursue. If they did though, that is something that our parks department could create to say, here’s our private tree bylaw, right? Here’s what private trees have to have, to when they have to be retained, how they have to be retained, etc. But right now, at the City of Calgary, we don’t have one of those. But it’s different tools than the guidebook.  Going back to your first question about the hierarchy of plans, there’s number of different types of plans and policies that get us to different outcomes. The guidebook, it’s just one of those. If we want more about trees, we should really be looking at that private tree bylaw or a public tree funding mechanism.

DK: This is probably going to be the final question unless of course, it leads to a couple more. The MDP prescribes, I believe, a 50/50 split by 2050…

LK: It’s 2069.

DK: Maybe I just had the 50s in my head. Now, of course, as we have established, the MDP lays the groundwork for the Guidebook, which then lays the groundwork for the LAPs. Or as you put it, it provides the language. Is it fair to say, Lisa, that this is a document that does move us closer towards that 50/50 split of urban density or urban population density versus suburban population density,

LK: Not on its own. It has to be combined with a Local Area Plan to do that. Because the Guidebook doesn’t actually put anything on the ground. But it’s the tool to get us to that policy. To help us develop those Local Area Plans that get us to that 50/50. So, we really have to think of the Guidebook and Local Area Plans as working together to get to that goal.

DK: So then, I guess to clarify further for the average person, LAP is really the document that spells out how we’re going to get to that 50/50. And that’s where arguably, the greatest impact on an area could be.

LK: Absolutely. The Guidebook won’t impact an area until the local area plan is adopted by Council. So, the Local Area Plan is really that tool to say how growth and evolution is going to occur at that local level. Again, the guidebook just gives that language, but it doesn’t apply anything on the ground.

About Darren Krause 859 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

1 Comment

  1. Is there any way we can listen to these podcasts on the Apple Podcast app? Thanks for the great work!

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