Well Calgary City Hall has been on quite the roll this week in demonstrating their almost religious-like obsession with urban density planning despite an utter lack of demand for such by the majority of the population of the city.
One of the main strategies over the years has been to strangle automotive access to our city core through choking parking availability and ignoring demand through spending our limited infrastructure funds on pedestrian bridges and bike lanes despite minuscule demand for these things. Hell, cutting vehicular lanes out alone and making those un-utilized bike lanes a priority-one for plowing was not enough, yesterday our luminaries at City Hall decided to sacrifice yet more parking spaces and more vehicular space by stuffing in bike “tracks” at quadruple the cost of bike lanes with plans to greatly expand that traffic and parking throttling next year.
City hall has purposely been refusing to allow developers to plan for adequate parking in our core for years in hopes of reducing automotive traffic for years. All this has done is given Calgary the dubious honor of being the second most expensive place to park in North America. People are still driving, but they are spending a great deal more to do it.
“Bike sharing” has proven to be a catostrophic and expensive failure around the world. Despite this reality, yesterday city hall set a timeline of 2015 to get a bike sharing program going. They claim it will not happen unless a private business steps up to do it, but rest assured that will change as the city chooses to subsidize a semi-private disaster like Bixi that Montreal sunk over $108 million into.
Now despite years of this effort in social engineering, Calgary’s growth has still been outward due to consumer demand. Business is retreating to the suburbs and even out of the city altogether in pursuit of our citizens who are moving ever farther from Calgary’s expensive and congested core.
It appears that our zealous city planners have realized that their density plan has been failing but instead of facing that reality and opening up our core again, they are fighting consumer demand and the free-market by stopping legitimate developments on the edges of our city!
Look at the precedent that will be set if the commission (populated by extremists like Druh Farrel) decides to refuse to allow development in East Hills as recommended by our idealists in city planning. The site was zoned for this development years ago and investors have spent two years planning in good faith. If our idiots in city hall shut this project down it will demonstrate that Calgary is a terrible place to do business in!
Even if common sense prevails and the city maintains the go-ahead on this project, just the fact that they were so strongly considering shutting this down has shaken any considering investing in Calgary.
The idiocy knows no bounds though. The zoning demanded “big-box” style development so that small business on “International Avenue” may be protected. Considering that most of the business along 17th Avenue SE consists of pawn-shops, massage parlours and liquor stores, I don’t think there was much risk that a new development wanted to tap into those markets anyway.
Either way, through following zoning guidelines, the development now clashes with the pie-in-the-sky “Plan-it” framework that demands upward, high-density development. We should find out soon which ideal will win here.
The winners out of all of this idiocy will be landowners outside of the City of Calgary including our satellite communities such as Okotoks, Cochrane, Airdrie and Strathmore. Calgarians are never going to en-masse give up their backyards, sell their cars, move into downtown condos and ride bikes to work no matter how much pressure the zealots in City Hall try to force them to do so.
What really is happening is that citizens are retreating from the core. Now we are seeing head-offices and retail services following them out. We had better learn to plan for this reality or our development as a city will become more stunted than ever.
Shutting down a Wal-Mart on the East side of the city will not make the residents of Forest Lawn suddenly decide to go to Inglewood to buy a small handcrafted bookshelf for a few hundred dollars for their kid’s bedroom. The shoppers will simply commute farther in search of economical big-box purchases.
Calgary’s downtown will not become “vibrant” through this idealistic efforts. Small business in the core has already been heavily damaged by insanely high parking rates and inaccessibility. Further pushing up costs and access will not suddenly make consumers flock to the core to eat and shop. This again will simply push demand and development out. We will have a downtown deadzone populated by offices, some coffee shops and un-utilized bike share stations, This simple notion is apparently utterly lost on our current city council.
We are one year from the next civic election. I do hope that enough Calgarians wake up and vote for some realists on city council before we waste even more precious tax-dollars and mess up our city development. Vote carefully.