Dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Con­dos -

In 1990, Calgary lacked estab­lished ur­ban­ized (high den­sity) res­i­den­tial ar­eas ex­cept for the Belt­line, which put the city at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage when the ur­ban liv­ing re­nais­sance took place start­ing in the mid ’90s. com­pre­hen­sive.”

By con­trast, Van­cou­ver-area mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been col­lab­o­rat­ing since 1913, which is 40 years ear­lier than Toronto or Calgary.

The Lower Main­land Re­gional Plan­ning Board was estab­lished in 1949 and iden­ti­fied as early as 1963 that “with­out in­ter­ven­tion, the sup­ply of ur­ban land would be ex­hausted by the end of the mil­len­nium.”

Since 1975, the Liv­able Re­gion called for a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of the re­gion’s growth to be con­cen­trated in “re­gional town cen­tres” that are tran­sit-ori­ented, mixed-use and func­tion as fo­cal points for sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties.

As for Calgary, the study says the city “has had a ro­bust sys­tem of lo­cal and re­gional plan­ning for much of the last half-cen­tury. Since the 1970s, Calgary has been more con­cerned with fa­cil­i­tat­ing growth rather than con­tain­ing it.”

The re­port goes on to say “poli­cies are di­rected at fos­ter­ing con­tigu­ous green­field de­vel­op­ment, rather than in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion and en­croach­ment on sur­round­ing ru­ral land.”

The City of Calgary’s plans are based on con­sumer pref­er­ence for low-den­sity hous­ing, says the re­port — and there­fore are fo­cused on ma­nip­u­lat­ing the form of green­field (sub­ur­ban) de­vel­op­ment rather than in­creas­ing the pro­por­tion of to­tal growth through in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion.

I want to point out that in the early ’90s, the City of Calgary de­vel­oped the Go Plan, which did pro­mote the cre­ation of mini-down­town and ur­ban nodes in the suburbs.

These nodes have now evolved to Tran­sit Ori­ented De­vel­op­ments (TODs) — the mantra of plan­ners in all ma­jor North Amer­i­can cities today.

TODs aim to mix res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment near things like LRT sta­tions in such a way as to boost den­sity while de­creas­ing the use of ve­hi­cles.

For the most part, the find­ings are pretty much what you would ex­pect — Calgary man­ages its growth through an­nex­a­tion and sub­ur­ban de­vel­op­ment of sin­gle-fam­ily homes, Van­cou­ver man­ages its growth through in­ter­ven­tion and in­fill de­vel­op­ment of ex­ist­ing ur­ban ar­eas, and Toronto man­ages growth through a com­bi­na­tion of both.

What is per­haps more en­light­en­ing is the re­port’s ob­ser­va­tion that Calgary has had a “ro­bust” and con­sis­tent sys­tem of re­gional plan­ning for more than 60 years.

Through­out the re­port, Calgary’s com­mit­ment to plan­ning is com­pared favourably to Van­cou­ver’s.

I doubt this is the per­cep­tion held by many Calgary plan­ners, de­vel­op­ers or politi­cians.

It might have been use­ful for the re­searchers to have also looked at the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture and sta­bil­ity of each of the cities to de­ter­mine what role they played in growth.

Calgary, for bet­ter or worse, has had an amaz­ingly sta­ble po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship since 1950.

City res­i­dents elected five long-serv­ing may­ors dur­ing that pe­riod — Don­ald Mackay (1950 to 1959), Rod Sykes (1969 to 1977), Ralph Klein (1980 to 1989), Al Duerr (1989 to 2001) and Dave Bron­con­nier (2001 to 2010).

Provin­cially, three pre­miers gov­erned Al­berta for much of the past 68 years: Ernest Man­ning (1943 to 1968), Peter Lougheed (1971 to 1985) and Ralph Klein (1992 to 2006).

Nei­ther Van­cou­ver nor Toronto can match that sta­bil­ity.

Struc­turally too, Calgary is unique in its mu­nic­i­pal pol­i­tics given there is no party sys­tem, un­like Van­cou­ver and Toronto.

It means the mayor and al­der­men are elected based on their own in­di­vid­ual mer­its and poli­cies, not on party al­liances.

As a re­sult, Calgary politi­cians are more in­clined to give vot­ers what they want — and the per­cep­tion is, right or wrong, that the ma­jor­ity of Cal­gar­i­ans want af­ford­able, sin­gle­fam­ily homes in the suburbs.

Hence, Calgary’s plan­ning and pol­icy favours green­field, sin­gle-fam­ily de­vel­op­ment.

Third, it would have been in­ter­est­ing to study growth pat­terns from an im­mi­gra­tion per­spec­tive.

It is my un­der­stand­ing that most of Calgary’s growth from 1991 to 2001 was fuelled by peo­ple mi­grat­ing from small Cana­dian cities and towns — in­di­vid­u­als gen­er­ally not ac­cus­tomed to ur­ban mul­ti­fam­ily hous­ing.

Van­cou­ver’s and Toronto’s growth, on the other hand, was fuelled much more by new Cana­dian im­mi­grants, many of whom come from ur­ban­ized cities where multi-fam­ily hous­ing is com­mon.

The ques­tion I ask is: Should govern­ment pol­icy and plan­ning dic­tate growth — or should the de­sires of cit­i­zens dic­tate govern­ment plan­ning and pol­icy?

Per­haps in all three cities, the plan­ning and pol­icy re­flects the de­sired growth of its peo­ple.

Not ev­ery city should look the same, nor is ev­ery city at the same stage in its evo­lu­tion — and not ev­ery city has the same eco­nomic, geo­graphic and cli­matic as­sets.

In my opin­ion, the key to build­ing a com­pet­i­tive and vi­able city is the abil­ity of its cit­i­zens to cap­i­tal­ize on its as­sets and seek to be unique, as op­posed to adopt­ing the group think that of­ten hap­pens with politi­cians, plan­ners and de­vel­op­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.