Ward 9 Great Neighbourhoods Calgary – Gian-Carlo Carra

This is the official website for Gian-Carlo Carra, City Councillor for Ward 9 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Filtering by Tag: Calgary Fire Department

Secondary Suites Have Been Reformed. Here's What's Next.


I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about secondary suites in Calgary and the historic and forward change that took place on March 12, 2018.

People across the city living in R1 zones received a letter in the mail from the City of Calgary letting them know that City Council would be holding a public hearing on March 12, where the main topic of discussion would be regarding adding a discretionary use to the Land Use Bylaw in all R1 districts which would make basement suites and backyard suites a discretionary use.

What does this mean?

Before this proposal, if you wanted to build a secondary suite on your R1 designated property you would have to come to City Hall and appear before City Council and plead your case., a process that has been in place for a few years now.

Hundreds of individual ‘one off’ secondary suite applications have come through City Council and over 85% of them have been approved. With such an inefficient use of Council’s time, the questions became:

1) Are we using everyone's time appropriately?

2) Is this actually an ethical imperative? And

3) Can we shorten the timelines and make it more compact?

The growing consensus with this new Council was that we had to do the work of reforming the process of applying for, and the granting of, secondary suites. What we determined was that adding a discretionary use into the R1 district was the way to get it off of Council’s plate and in order to better focus our efforts onto the major issues facing Calgary.

On March 12, City Council heard well over 100 public submissions which were accompanied by over 900 letters from Calgarians. From my view, about 60% - 65% of the people who presented lived in R1 neighborhoods and were against the new proposal. Another 30% - 40% of the people who presented were also from R1 districts accompanied by advocates from across the city advocating for housing affordability and equity who were in favour of the creation of complete neighbourhoods for people of all ages, stages, and wages.  

In a 9-6 vote, City Council voted in support of the proposed bylaw change. That vote changed the world as we know it (at least in Calgary). What we now have is a city where discretionary use in all our R districts throughout the city, have secondary suites a use. With that said, we did agree to take backyard, above-garage, and cottage homes in backyards out of the bylaw and defer the bylaw from coming into effect until we bring forward the design guidelines and standards for backyard suites.

I was happy to support that as well. It's a big win.

We've taken Calgary forward with the rest of the nation. We've caught up with the rest of Canada, and now secondary suites are an allowed housing form in all single detached housing in the City of Calgary, which is a great news.

What’s next for unsafe suites and homes that flout their designated zoning?

Although we have accomplished this milestone, there is more work to do.

The vote on secondary suites also implemented to Secondary Suite Registry which allows folks who are looking to rent a secondary suite to confirm that these developments have obtained all necessary permits and have been inspected to meet Alberta’s Safety Code requirements. Being on the list is now mandatory, and going forward, every secondary suite that is completed and whose development has been inspected and approved, will be on the secondary suite registry list.

While a secondary suite doesn’t have to be listed on the Registered Suites Map, it will be listed on the city’s registry list which is maintained by Planning & Development.

Additionally, the City of Calgary will be giving currently illegal secondary suite owners two years to bring their suites up to code, after which, the city will be pursuing increased enforcement should they continue to attempt to flout the new bylaw and registry system.

Moving forward we need to address the issues of illegal and non-conforming suites and duplexes which have been turned into 4-packs. It is estimated that there are between 16,000 to 25,000 households in the City of Calgary that are illegal or non-conforming. A large number of those are sitting in 1970's-type low-slope roof buildings that take a semi-detached form. Those developments lend themselves very well from going from a duplex, a two-unit semi-detached home, to a four pack - two units on the top floor with two units on the ground floor - because the basements are raised.

We see these all over the city, and there are a number of them in Ward 9. One of the things that I heard from the public, loud and clear, was that people are concerned about safety.

I don’t take those comments lightly. Safety is a big issue for my colleagues on City Council and I. We will continue to work to make sure that every Calgarian can live in a safe and legal home, whether it's a secondary suite or not. The challenge with the semi-detached form I mentioned above is that it's not technically a secondary suite. It's technically a multi-family building.

Everything that we've done to date on secondary suites has not addressed the issue that we face with the illegal 4-packs. If we want to make those thousands of units safe, the first thing we have to do is make them legal. In the weeks ahead, I will be putting together a Notice of Motion directing City Administration to examine and bring back a report on paths to legality for that kind of building form. I expect to have a lot of support from my colleagues on City Council.

What is next for secondary suites?

In the next year or two, after we've seen how the discretionary use process works in the ‘R’ Districts and we realize that, like the rest of the country, it's not like an apocalyptic change, I will be working with my colleagues to pursue secondary suites as a permitted use. As you know, when I first started talking about this, I wanted to make in-house suites a permitted use, and I still believe that this is the gold standard that we should be pursuing and I will not be fully happy until we get to that point.

Those are the next two steps on the suite file, I'm very pleased that we made the massive step that we did on March 12, and I look forward to continuing to move the ball forward on this essential component of a completely community. Thank you so much. Gian-Carlo Carra signing off.



Evraz-Navajo Metals and Lynnwood Ridge Update

There has been a lot of talk about Evraz-Navajo, Lynnwood Ridge and the issues of noise and explosions lately.

I want all residents of Lynnwood Ridge and Millican-Ogden to know that I have been working with The City, Lynnwood Ridge residents, the Millican-Ogden Community Association, and the leadership of Evraz-Navajo to find a solution to this issue since it was first brought to my attention when I was first elected to represent the amazing community of Ogden in 2010.

While things have gotten remarkably better since I’ve started working on this matter, there are still instances when the commercial practices of Evraz-Navajo conflict with the neighbourhood.

This tension between Evraz-Navajo and Lynnwood Ridge residents has been happening since 1992 and while I’m proud of the forward movement on this file and the improvements that have been made, things aren’t where they need to be and I will continue working to find a long-term solution for all parties.

Background and Timeline

For those who may not be familiar with this issue, Evraz-Navajo is a licensed scrap metal recycling salvage yard and auto wrecker that has been licensed since the 1960s.

Working with Calgary Business Licensing, further inquiries were made with the Calgary Fire Department and Calgary Police Service for calls for service histories.

From April of 2010 to June of 2014, Calgary Fire Department had responded to 22 calls for service to the Evraz-Navajo - 9 appear to be related to a call for a fire and 1 appears to be related to an explosion. Additionally, there were 7 calls for service noted as “No incident found on arrival at dispatch address” which may or may not be related to fire and/or explosions. The remaining 5 appear to be unrelated to The City’s investigation.

At the same time, from January 1, 2014, to July 2, 2014, Calgary Police Service responded to 15 calls for service to the property which included 7 noise complaints, 4 explosion complaints and 1 fire complaint, and 3 unrelated matters.

What’s been done

On January 20, 2015, your Team Ward 9, the Millican-Ogden Community Association President Rick Smith and I met with senior leadership at Evraz-Navajo to discuss the concerns of residents regarding the explosions they were experiencing.

At this meeting we learned that Evraz-Navajo was aware of the issues and were actively working to improve their operations. Some of those improvements included conducting a four-phase inspection procedure to minimize prohibited items from entering their systems (such as pressurized gas cylinders and fuel tanks).

During the meeting, Evraz-Navajo’s Manager of Technical and Environmental Services explained that the main reason for explosions were that pressurized gas cylinders were being hidden the items sold to them in order to increase the weight of the metal being sold for scrap. Evraz-Navajo’s records show that they are good, although not perfect, at removing all incendiary devices before the metal is entered into their feedstock. To be fair to Evraz-Navajo it is worth noting that 800 to 900 tonnes of scrap metal is being processed at this facility per day.

I am of the mind that they must continue and improve upon their efforts to increase quality control procedures.

After reviewing Evraz-Navajo’s records and procedures, the records of Bylaw, Licensing, Environmental & Safety Management (City of Calgary) and speaking with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, our office confirmed that Evraz-Navajo had reduced the number of noise-related incidents from 52 vehicle explosions in 2013 to a record low of 21 in 2014.   

Evraz-Navajo admitted that they would not be able to completely eliminate noise-related incidents as scrap yards are not quite commercial and industrial uses. In saying that, they were aware of, and sensitive to, the concerns of residents and agreed to work with residents and improve their internal quality control mechanisms.

Beginning December 17, 2014, Evraz-Navajo implemented new policies to seek to further reduce the occurrence of noise-related incidents. These new policies culminated in a revised and more stringent vehicle acceptance criteria which included:

  • The removal of the fuel tanks from the vehicle;
  • The removal of propane tanks from the vehicle; and
  • Removal of mercury switches and other potentially incendiary devices.

 While I was pleased with this meeting, I indicated to all parties that my role was to ensure that Evraz-Navajo got as close to 0 with their explosions as possible and commit to forming a much better relationship with the residents of Lynnwood Ridge and the community association.

While the trend line for the explosions have steadily been decreasing, they weren’t getting to where they needed to be, and apparently continued to interfere with the residents’ enjoyment of their homes.

On March 11, 2015, a ‘Notice of Hearing’ was served on the business. In May of 2015 after a pre-hearing meeting, Evraz-Navajo, through Counsel, committed to a number of items to improve safety for both the public and its employees. Additionally, the business committed to providing records and plans of equipment used, records of employee training, records of explosions, confirmation of fire suppression systems, a commitment to prevent smoke from leaving the site, and assessment of emissions from the site to evaluate odour and irritation concerns.

As a result of this meeting and commitment, the hearing was not convened.

Between June 2015 to March 2016, Compliance Services received allegations of 20 explosions from residents and adjacent businesses, with the business reporting 6 explosions during this time frame.

In 2016, an investigation was conducted following citizen complaints about excessive noise, explosions, fire hazards and contaminated air (pollution) originating from Evraz-Navajo Metals. The investigation involved Business Licensing, Bylaw Services, and the Calgary Fire Department.

As a result, The City issued mandatory conditions in a letter advising Evraz-Navajo Metals of conditions that had to be met in order to maintain their business license (The City is given this authority under the Business License Bylaw).

Next Steps

While complaints continue, to date Evraz-Navajo Metals has been found to be in compliance with municipal bylaws and provincial legislation.  All complaints are being diligently investigated by The City as they come in.

Bylaw has conducted an investigation into the noise violations and is currently reviewing the allegations with the Law Department. The City and the Ward 9 Office is committed to finding a win-win-win solution that respect and successfully balances the needs and operations of businesses with the right to residents to enjoy their homes.

The City and I take all citizen complaints seriously. While we continue to work with the residents and Evraz-Navajo towards a long-term solution, The City has imposed a number of conditions on the company in order to ensure that compliance continues from the business and they can continue their operations with clear and concise expectations from The City and to create a mechanism whereby residents can hold The City accountable on following up on their complaints. These conditions include:

  1. The Licensee, whether by principal or agent, shall comply with both the Alberta Fire Code and Safety Codes Act.
  2. The Licensee, whether by principal or agent, shall comply with the Community Standards Bylaw as it pertains to both noise and nuisance escaping the property.
  3. The Licensee shall ensure that no activity involving the crushing or shredding of material that is likely to, or has been demonstrated to cause an explosion and/or a noise that disturbs, occurs after 6 PM.
  4. The Licensee shall maintain a list of each and every explosion/fire incident that occurs and have that list available upon demand for inspection by a Police Officer, Safety Codes Officer or Licence Inspector.
  5. The Licensee shall immediately satisfy the direction of the Calgary Fire Department pertaining to the explosions occurring on site.
  6. The Licensee shall report any explosion/fire incident that occurs no later than 24 hours after such incident to the Calgary Fire Department and Calgary Compliance Service member(s) identified.
  7. The Licensee shall test, at its own expense, at point of origin including at the point where the private property borders adjacent properties, the smoke, dust or other airborne matter that has been shown to be escaping from the property and provide the results to the City of Calgary in order that this smoke, dust or other airborne matter may be shown to not have a deleterious effect on the Public at large.
  8. The Licensee shall provide confirmation of the installation of the fire suppression system for the motor room, being a record from a third party fire suppression system company.

The Licensee shall maintain annual maintenance records and provide the records to the Calgary Fire Department on demand.

I will continue to work with Evraz-Navajo, MOCA and the residents of Millican-Ogden-Lynnwood to encourage and help facilitate dialogue and create neighbourly relations.

As always, my office is available to speak with you, and address your concerns regarding this, or any other issue that you have.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact me at ward09@calgary.ca or via telephone at 403-268-5330. If you’re on social media, I would encourage you to follow my online pages to get updates.