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December 10, 2017
July 12, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The big changes move forward

Written by Jeff Samsonow

City council’s great big giant end-of-summer blowout has wrapped with everything expected to pass, passing. It’s still a lot to get to though.

The first major restructuring of our transit system in a generation is moving ahead, with a target of 2020 for an all new ETS. As councillor Andrew Knack puts it, “The new transit strategy will improve service for the vast majority of Edmontonians.” This will mean more buses, and more frequency, if you live in Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods, particularly inside of our “inner ring road”

Edmonton’s inner ring road neighbourhoods. image: City of Edmonton

The next city council will really get to push this strategy forward, and the challenges appear to lie outside of the inner ring road in our ever-growing suburbs. Those neighbourhoods won’t get more buses, but they will get more frequency on major streets and shuttling between transit centres and LRT or BRT connections. How they get to those spots from their home is probably the biggest piece of the puzzle – lollygagging routes that attempt to get within a few blocks of everyone’s front door are not part of this plan.

One option around this “first and last mile” is going to be a dial-a-bus, shuttles and whatever else makes sense. City council, however, doesn’t want to see what taxi companies, rideshares or carshares could offer. This follows on some pushback on the “Uberization” of transit, but it also takes away options before real looks at the problem begin. The next council could always try to explore private options around these outlying transit connections, but right now it’s up to City staff and ETS to figure it out.

Progress Alberta was a visible part of the campaign against ETS working with private companies. The transit union was also against it.

Councillors approved heritage designations for a number of recognizable buildings before vacation. These include the stretch of churches in McCauley known as “Church Street“, the Gibbard Block in Highlands (known for La Boheme on its main floor) and the Tipton Investment Building on Whyte Avenue (most recently home to Kit and Ace). This improves the chances of the buildings being protected from redevelopment.

Speaking of which, our next generation of buildings, built in the middle of last century, will soon be coming up for these same kinds of debates. Best we get on that now, before we’re losing them all.

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A new push for affordable housing in every corner of the city is also moving ahead. This will end up tying into a larger plan to try and end homelessness in Edmonton, and it’s going to be something the mayor is grilling every single council candidate on. (He’ll have the time since nobody is running against him.)

Geez, Jeff, that doesn’t seem like that big of a city council meeting. You’d think that. But then you wouldn’t be counting everything that was debated on Monday!

Speaking of Monday’s portion of the council meeting…

One of the building applications that was approved is a type of housing we’re not used to Edmonton. The co-housing building will be built in Strathcona, and brings with it a mix of families, a mix of generations and dedication to shared spaces in the building that make it more of a tiny community than other apartment buildings. (Full disclosure, I wrote a letter of support of this project.)

And while rules were changed to encourage more garage and garden suites to be built, that may be back at city council sooner to examine if the suites need to be even larger for accessibility. (One note on that story, while it sounds like just one guy is asking for changes, there was a group of signees asking for the second look.)


Around the city

As we mentioned yesterday, Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole is on a tour of Alberta speaking about street checks (he’s in Edmonton at a free event on Saturday). This form of racial profiling is nothing new to many in vulnerable and targeted communities, but it’s certainly on Edmonton’s wider radar after CBC and Black Lives Matter released two different reports on the issue here.

Cole puts it well in his latest interview on how incredible it is for police – any police force – to claim this is good, community policing.

“…it just so happens that in every major city in Canada the police are patrolling the high-density areas, which also happen to be the high crime areas, which also happen to be where all the black and brown and Indigenous people live. That’s kind of a reach.

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A pilot program from the City to get more “corner stores” in communities lacking main street businesses and commercial pockets is starting to see its first successes. One of the most obvious ones is the wildly popular Ritchie Market. After you visit, you’re going to want one in your neighbourhood.

Mill Creek’s got an interesting history in Edmonton, including its status as a former shanty town. That’s being dug up this summer. Mill Creek’s possible return to the surface also passed through city council this week. (Ha! You thought we were done with the giant end-of-summer meeting.)

Also, I can confirm, the washrooms at Dorinku are excellent. (The whole place is excellent though.)


Public engagement

There’s a public information session about future LRT connections between Bonnie Doon and Old Strathcona (and the downtown), at Bonnie Doon Community Hall, 4 – 8 p.m.

Over in Holyrood, there’s an open house about a major redevelopment focused on connecting with the under-construction LRT. It’s at the South East Edmonton Seniors Association, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

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