Mount Pleasant R-CG Redesignation

We were at City Hall last week for a public hearing on a couple of redesignations. We were happy to have council's support in redesignating a parcel in Mount Pleasant to R-CG for an eight unit townhouse development. 

Some community members thought that this was the thin edge of the wedge to allowing rowhouses in Mount Pleasant, and that the community is going a good job of maintaining their population with current development. As well, Councillor Cabot noted that this would allow the density to double compared to the current land use.

However, Councillor Carra thought it was a great townhouse form, and that this is exactly the kind of lot that the R-CG district was designed to address. Councillor Woolley commented that this project would make living in Mount Pleasant more affordable.

Councillor Farrell expressed that 20th Avenue is the perfect candidate for row housing. The communities of Capitol Hill identified this in their recent ARP. She said that Mount Pleasant has seen significant development of large single family infills and that they also welcomed multi-family on 17th Avenue. What they don't have is product in between the multi-residential and the single family homes (sometimes called the "missing middle"). She said that this street is the perfect candidate for this. She mentioned that Council even discussed this street when they introduced the R-CG land use district. 

Councillor Carra doesn't agree with members of the community that Mount Pleasant should hold their population steady. He believes that inner city populations should be increased and sometimes significantly. Carra declared that "twentieth Avenue is the poster child for the R-CG land use". He said that the missing middle is a very important housing type to introduce to the inner city, and that even semi-detached houses are now out of the price range of normal families.

Councillor Chabot noted that there are a lot of single detached homes on 20th Avenue that haven't been converted to semi-detached. He's concerned that the City is trying to densify the city too quickly. He said that he appreciates where the applicant is going with this, but that he doesn't feel comfortable with doubling the current density that is allowed on the site or quadrupling the existing density. He said "It's going a little to much too quickly."

Woolley noted that Council approved the multi-residential infill guidelines and that this lot fits within those guidelines. He said that "It's a prime candidate for our infill guidelines" and it's a very good location. He said "I'm very supportive of this application."

Councillor Sutherland said that this was a perfect location. He noted that the density was reduced from what was originally proposed.

Councillor Farrell reiterated that this is appropriate development. She concluded that "this is a traditional land form that once developed will fit in very nicely with the community."

After discussion, Council gave three reading to the Bylaw amendments and approved the redesignation.

Unfortunately, on another item, a redesignation to allow a secondary suite in Wildwood will not be going ahead.

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.

R-CG Pre-App Meeting

This morning we had our first pre-application meeting for a potential R-CG parcel. We were very impressed by how open the planners at the City are about this redesignation. As well, the community was excited about it as well.

Because R-CG is not considered a multi-residential district in Calgary's Land Use Bylaw, there are fewer hurdles to jump in order to get an R-C2 parcel redesignated as R-CG. If there is an existing policy, such as an Area Redevelopment Plan, that indicates that a parcel should remain a Low Density use, the R-CG district still conforms. As well, because of its conventional format where entrances are on the street and are not internal to the parcel, neighbours and community associations are less concerned about R-CG developments causing conflicts with adjacent low density development.

Based on the positive feedback from the community association, neighbours and today's pre-application meeting, we're going to move forward with the land use redesignation. We'll keep our followers informed as this development progresses! 


Secondary Suite Silver Lining

We think that most Calgarians are disappointed by yesterday's news that Secondary Suites won't soon be permitted (or even discretionary) in Calgary's R-C1 districts (nor R-1, R-C1L districts). We won't belabour the situation by pointing out how unique our city is in disallowing this modest form of housing.

Rather, we want to remind homeowners, builders, and developers that accessory suites are currently possible in the R-C2 district and many others! In fact, in the ubiquitous R-C2 district, suites within a dwelling unit, such as basement suites, are permitted on all lots that are 29 1/2 feet (9m) or wider.

As well, backyard suites—such as suites above garages—are discretionary on lots that are 42 1/2 feet (13m) in width or wider, at at least 98 1/2 feet (30m) deep, and at least 4305 square feet (400 square metres) in area. Most of Calgary's inner city lots are 50 feet wide and easily accommodate a backyard suite. The fact that they are discretionary simply means that a development permit is required prior to applying for a building permit.

From Council Agenda December 15th, 2014 at

From Council Agenda December 15th, 2014 at

Currently, most of our clients are building accessory suites above triple garages. This size of garage easily accommodates two parking stalls for the main house, plus one for the suite. As well, triple garages provide a large enough footprint to allow for a good-sized two bedroom suite above the garage.

Even though yesterday's secondary suite news might be bad, it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to put off your suite plans. If you have an R-C2 lot, you're good to go. If you have questions, please feel free to give us a call.