Fostering Inner City Development

Within the past month, Richard White has published three blog entries on how Calgary’s City Council could foster development in established communities. 

Permitted Multifamily

In the first entry, White proposes making multifamily development in the inner city a permitted use rather than a discretionary use. This means that if a proposed development meets all the Land Use Bylaw rules, then it's allowed as proposed. We're not against this idea, but relaxations can be an important part of making a project better or even possible. In fact, most multifamily applications have at least one relaxation. If a single relaxation exposes a developer to potential appeal, then this idea wouldn't really improve things at all.

SDAB Reform

In White's second entry, he discusses the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. This board is famous for being arbitrary and allowing specious arguments. In our own experience, the decisions that the Board makes are at best unpredictable. We can't expect that there will be any more weight placed on the larger needs of the City than on the irrelevant claims of an unaffected neighbour. This introduces a signifiant risk to developers considering an inner city project, and certainly makes suburban development look more attractive. Unfortunately, as Richard writes, the recent review has only resulted in minor changes that haven't had an affect on outcomes.

Remove Redundant Policy

In his last entry on the subject, White suggests removing Area Redevelopment Plans from public policy. These plans were drafted to curb inner city development, and because of this, are out of sync with the City's progressive Municipal Development Plan. Case in point, the North Hill ARP begins with a nostalgic vision statement that includes: "There is a village atmosphere with young and old mingling in a way reminiscent of earlier, gentler times." The person who wrote that isn't going to stand for any change to his or her neighbourhood, especially if it might increase traffic (which is a code word for diversity). We project that the ARPs will stay on the books but will slowly fade out of relevance.

Thanks to Richard White for these three great entries and his excellent blog, The Everyday Tourist.