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.

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Guest Blog - Why Forest Lawn matters to me

 
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Two years ago my wife and I decided on Forest Lawn as the place to build our family. We were pregnant and looking to buy our first home together. Initially, I was skeptical of the location based on the reputation the community had, but the reality of the neighbourhood was significantly different than what I had expected.

I love Forest Lawn

I have found Forest Lawn to be one of the best neighbourhoods I have lived in here in Calgary, for many reasons. There are many great shops, local businesses, amazing food, and a diverse blend of cultures all coming together to make Forest Lawn feel like a small town in a big city.

The proximity to downtown is great and with the construction work underway on 17 Avenue and the vision for the corridor from the BRZ/International Ave and the City of Calgary, I found that there are only a few things that needed to change to make Forest Lawn live up to its potential.

Before you complain, volunteer

One thing was that it needed to be physically cleaned up.

I had decided that I wanted to get involved in my community and I was able to get in touch with the Forest Lawn Community Association. I offered my services to help in anyway and I was informed about a community clean-up the FLCA was hosting.  I offered to design the flyers, print and distribute them.

One of the aspects of the clean-up was that not all residents were able to move their garbage or recyclables to the location. We would need to find some volunteers to pick up the materials from any residents that required it. This made me think, if we had to pick up the garbage, we should just be dropping it at the landfill. If we were able to get access to the landfill, I could use that access to clean up the rest of the neighbourhood.

I eventually elaborated on the idea until it developed into a project. I plan and implement projects every day in my line of work and it only seemed natural to apply the same formula to this project. I set up the goals for the project, expected outcomes, and a plan of action to have it accomplished.

Planning was essential

The first step was organizing a way to remove as much garbage as possible and where it would go. I contacted the City’s Waste and recycling division and sent the director my plan of action and asked for 3 days of access at no charge to remove the debris. I then tried to find a resource to fund the operation.

I received notification back from Waste and Recycling Services that they would be happy to be a part of the project. Although they weren’t sure about how they were going to go about structuring it as it was a new initiative.

Funding on the other hand was a much more difficult aspect as there wasn’t an operating body that would be able to fund the project, for one reason or another. (Starting in late 2018, anyone with an idea to help their community can apply for funding through the GFL Small Grants Committee).

Because we had the backing of Waste and Recycling Services, and the support of Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra and his team, I decided to fund the project.

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The next difficult step was to find volunteers. I made the rounds through my friends and family and had confirmation from many of them for at least a few hours over the weekend and that was a good enough start.

I then approached several businesses, not-for-profits and social program directors in the neighbourhood. Many said they were unable to help or didn’t have the resources and made recommendations to other places or people. When I approached Foothills Landscaping, a long-time member of the Forest Lawn community, they volunteered. They offered the project two vehicles, if they could find volunteers to run them from within the company. The President of Foothills landscaping, George, and another great volunteer, Roy, stepped up and drove the trucks and helped pick up the waste scattered through the alleys.  

I organized the teams so that we could have the maximum impact, giving each crew a set of laneways to clean-up. Because of our lack of resources, we really needed to be efficient in how we used them, so planning was a key element to achieving success.

The project was a huge success. By the end of the 3 days we had accomplished quite a lot and made a big impact on the aesthetics, safety and pride of the community.

The numbers

  • 21,840 Lbs of waste

  • 23 Trips to the landfill

  • 72.5 Hours of labour

  • $314.02 Operating expenses

  • $0.0144 – Cost per LBS

  • 301.24 LBS per hour worked


What we encountered

Some of the most common things we came across were couches and mattresses, we also often had to clean up ripped open garbage bags or overturned black bins.

We did have to call the Calgary Fire Department to come out to two scenes while we were on the clean up. We had come across several needles in various locations and one particular area with roughly 50 needles that needed to be cleaned up. While it wasn’t nice coming across those, we were very happy to be able to remove them from the neighbourhood and create a safer space for everyone.

The outcomes

One of the best outcomes of this project, outside of the intended goals, was the communication with the community. They were so happy to see that someone was helping the community and cleaning up what everyone had seen as a major problem.

We were thanked by many of the residents and many of them had questions as to why we were doing it, and who we were hired by. I think that many of them were shocked that someone could just take it upon themselves to fix a problem.

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If one lesson is learned from this, I hope it is that ever citizen, every individual has the power to make positive change. You don’t have to set up a whole program or clean up an entire community. You can volunteer a few hours at your local community association, pick up garbage as you walk down the street, cut your neighbours grass or shovel someone’s walkway. Everyone has the power to affect change in their community.

Thank yous

I would like to thank all of the 9 volunteers;

Perry, Chris, Dwayne, Pete, Allan, Steve, Roy, George and Bill.

I would also like to thank supporters of the project;

Mike Haines, Rick Valdarchi, and Je Fei Shi from Waste and Recycling Services. 12 Community Safety Initiative. BRZ / International Avenue. As well as Gian-Carlo Carra and his staff.

Final thoughts

If you or someone you know would like to become active in your community, a great way to start is by joining your local Community Association.

William Carnegie

 

Volunteering to Build Great Neighbourhoods

 
What are some of the ways you can make your Great Neighbourhood better? (Photo source: City of Calgary)

What are some of the ways you can make your Great Neighbourhood better? (Photo source: City of Calgary)

Date: September 1

Hello Ward 9!

I hope that you’ve all had a great summer and that the smoke, heat and hail didn’t impact your days too much. I had the continually-invigorating opportunity to speak with Calgarians at Neighbour Day, Stampede, community events and meeting folks from all neighbourhoods across Ward 9.

It was great to see how many people love their neighbourhoods. The most asked question I got from residents was “What’s the one thing I could do to improve my community?”.

Each time I would respond the same way: volunteer.

It’s a little known fact that it was my time as a volunteer with my community association that ‘primed the pump’ for me to enter city politics. I had a lot of opinions about how things should, could, and would be if I would be listened to. One day, a close friend of mine (who had heard just about all of my opinions) turned to me and asked: “Hey, before you complain, have you volunteered?”.

I hadn’t thought about it. I realized that I took it for granted how many people were working to make my neighbourhood better – people who may not have had a lot of time to volunteer, but who had the heart to improve the neighbourhood.

Many people were taking the time out of their lives –– to staff Traffic, Safety, and Re-Development Committees (among others) to make our neighbourhood the best it could be and it was unfair for me to be so critical of them when I wasn’t stepping up myself.

So I joined.

I was put to work quickly and greeted by thankful volunteers. I got to know my neighbourhood and the people in it better, learned how The City worked, and got to improve the neighbourhood. I met some great people that I am still close friends with today. It was a wonderful experience and I wish I had done it sooner.

It’s said that the number one reason people don’t volunteer is because they’re not asked; so I’m asking you. Here are the community associations in your neighbourhood:

Each of them have dedicated volunteers who could use your input and help. I’m asking each of you who have the heart to volunteer, to volunteer for your community association. Your ideas and skills will make your neighbourhood better when you’re working with like-minded people.

I look forward to supporting you. As a former community association volunteer, you have a champion that will always fight for you in achieving your neighbourhood’s best future.

Let’s continue building strong and Great Neighbourhoods together.

Yours truly,

Gian-Carlo Carra

P.S. Be sure to sign up for the Ward 9 newsletter to know what’s happening in your neighbourhood and share this newsletter with your friends, family, and neighbours in Ward 9 so they can stay on top of things as well. Thanks!

 

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.

 

 

Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project Update (Inglewood and Ramsay)

Hello, Neighbours.

The Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project is nearing its construction phase scheduled for early March through to December of 2018. Though the project will have a large net benefit to the environment and every effort has been made to save as many trees as possible, 42 trees need to be removed for the project to be completed. The trees that require removal were flagged on February 5, 2018 and will remain flagged for at least two weeks prior to their removal. The removed trees will be compensated for with a 3 to 1 ratio and much of the removed tree material will be used in the design itself to create habitat for wildlife.

This project has been presented at several open houses in the Inglewood and Ramsay communities over the last year and was featured in the July/August Inglewood Community Newsletter. Community engagement on this project will continue up to and through construction and will include door knocking and mail drops to nearby homes prior to construction.

Background

The City of Calgary and Alberta Environment and Parks are working together to improve fish habitat and improve slope stability between Pearce Estate Park and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, two much loved amenities in Inglewood. When complete, the techniques used here to re-establish the area after the 2013 Flood, will be used across Calgary and the Province to create fish and wildlife habitat, stabilize steep slopes and improve area aesthetics.

What’s Next?

During this time work continues to bring this project to completion.

  • Steep areas will be graded into stable terraced riverbanks, which will include the removal of 42 trees, however, much of the plant material being removed will be re-used in the project creating habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • The trees and a number of shrubs will be removed in late February in order to prevent issues with nesting birds.
  • The majority of the trees that are being removed are ornamental and not native to southern Alberta.
  • Over 150 new native trees and thousands of native shrubs will be planted to restore a natural vegetated corridor and healthy riparian zone.
  • There will be a temporary closure of the current regional pathway during construction, to be replaced by a new and improved regional pathway and a new nature trail.
  • Temporary impacts during construction will be mitigated with erosion and sediment control plans, and Environmental Construction Operations plans.
  • After project completion, fish and wildlife habitat will be improved, and the naturalized corridor will provide enhanced opportunities to experience nature along the Bow River.

My office and I will continue to monitor the progress of this work and remain open to, and encourage, citizen and resident feedback during this construction phase. 

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

Gian-Carlo Carra

P.S. 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 about everything that impacts your community, Ward 9, and The City of Calgary.

P.P.S. Have you given any thought of joining and participating in the Inglewood Community Association and Ramsay Community Association? They are a solid group of neighbourhood volunteers who our office relies on to give us insight into the concerns and issues of the community. It’s been shown that there is a direct correlation between the number of residents who volunteer with their community association and the quality of life of the neighbourhood. Check them out and let’s continue to build our #GreatNeighbourhoods.

Applewood Park and CN Rail Whistle Cessation update

Hello, Neighbours. 

First off, I want to say 'hi' to the residents of Applewood Park who now are a part of Ward 9.  In October of 2017, the Ward Boundaries were updated, which has brought the great communities of East Calgary together under one ward.

I want to thank all of my friends and neighbours in Applewood Park who reached out to my office, rolled up their sleeves and got involved in improving their neighbourhood’s quality of life by letting me know the challenge they face with the train whistle and the disruption it can cause to their quality of life and enjoyment of their home.

I also want to update you on a local project.  We have heard from a number of residents regarding the CN Train Whistle at the new at-grade pedestrian crossing situated northeast of Applewood Park. 

The multi-use pathway is an ambitious $50M project by the Parks Foundation to provide a ‘pedestrian ring road’ around our City.  The City is very pleased to be gifted the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway.

As a city built up around the spine of rail lines, I appreciate and respect the immense role that trains had in building our city, province and country. As we’ve grown and evolved from a town sitting on bald prairie fields to a modern metropolis, conflicts between residents and trains have arisen, particularly around at-grade crossings – where trains cross at the same level as cars – and noise, typically represented by the historic train whistle.

While we all have stories of being “caught” at a railway stop while waiting for the train cars to go by (I always ensure that I’m never caught off guard by having a great podcast ready in the queue) and the frustration that can result of that, many Calgarians, including myself have come to almost regard it as a rite of passage to the great Calgary experience. However, what most residents find much more frustrating than being at a railway crossing for 10-30 minutes (throwing entire schedules to the wind) is the ear-piercing train whistle.

As irritating as it is, trains must whistle prior to travelling through at-grade crossings, unless an agreement has been reached between The City of Calgary and the railway company. In Applewood Park, residents have indicated to my office and I that they would like such an agreement put in place between The City of Calgary and CN Rail to stop train whistles at the at-grade crossings in Applewood Park.

I’m glad to inform you that this process is well underway.

There are four main steps required to cease the whistle blowing in Applewood Park.

  • Assessing the feasibility of whistle cessation;
  • Issuing a notice to the railway company outlining the intent to cease whistle blowing in Applewood Park;
  • Passing a resolution at Council; and
  • Notifying Transport Canada once the resolution is passed.

To date, The City of Calgary has hired engineers to do an assessment of the feasibility of whistle cessation in Applewood Park. A report was completed that whistle cessation was feasible and it was further identified with The City’s contractor that construction of required infrastructure elements (installing fencing, gates, signage, etc.) is on target and will be completed before the end of February. This construction will be inspected with a CN representative in early February.

Additionally, The City has been working with the Law Department to get the required notifications drafted and they are ready to be sent out to relevant community institutions and public stakeholders as soon as the inspection of the infrastructure is complete.

Once these public notices are out, the next step is to have a resolution passed by Council declaring that whistles will cease at the Applewood Park location. That resolution may either come before Council through a Notice of Motion from my office or through a report from Parks at the Standing Policy Committee on Community Services and Protective Services.

Lastly, once that resolution is passed by Council, a copy of the resolution and documentation will be sent to CN Rail and Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Directorate with the effective date of whistling cessation. At this point, CN Rail will no longer be required to sound the whistle at at-grade crossings and residents will be able to rest easy and be afforded the same expectations that their fellow Calgarians who live, work, and play close to railways and trains have.

Again, I want to thank the folks who reached out to me and my office and let me know about this. I understand that you have been living with this for a long time, and I am proud that I was able to move this issue forward as quickly as I have been able to with City Administration.

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

Gian-Carlo Carra

P.S. 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 about everything that impacts your community, Ward 9, and The City of Calgary.

P.P.S. Have you given any thought of joining and participating in the Applewood Park Community Association? They are a solid group of neighbourhood volunteers who our office relies on to give us insight into the concerns and issues of the community. It’s been shown that there is a direct correlation between the number of residents who volunteer with their community association and the quality of life of the neighbourhood. Check them out and let’s continue to build our #GreatNeighbourhoods.

Penny Pinching Or Unfettered Spending? Council's 2018 Budget Adjustments

At the end of November, City Council and I reviewed and adjusted the 2018 municipal budget.  2018 marks the final year of Action Plan 2015-2018, Calgary’s first ever four-year budget plan. Over four long (and sometimes grueling) days we examined the successes of previous budgets and set ambitious goals for our future. I am pleased with where we are and look forward to the coming year as we develop One Calgary, the City's next four-year budget plan.

This budget purposefully focused on investing in safety, social services and public transit and easing the tax burden on Calgarians. I am excited for the Great Neighbourhoods work we will be executing on throughout 2018.

Key Elements of the approved 2018 Municipal Budget Adjustments include:

  • Reduction to the previously approved 2018 municipal property tax rate increase from 4.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent for property owners.
  • $20.8 million for Calgary Police Service (CPS) for the addition of 55 new members to address growing demands, additional human resources, and to fund body-worn cameras.
  • $4 million from the Fiscal Stability Reserve to fund the low income transit pass for Calgarians.
  • $4 million to restore the recommended reductions to Calgary Transit service hours and to invest additional services to optimize the system.
  • $3 million approved from the Fiscal Stability Reserve to Community Services for safe communities, youth and low-income programs and crime prevention.
  • $23.7 million in 2017 tax room dedicated to fund Green Line financing costs for 27 years ending in 2044.
  • Reducing the 2018 basic sanitary tipping fees from $119 to $113 per tonne and Planning & Development fees, to reduce the burden on Calgary businesses.
  • Approving $1.7 billion for capital investment in Calgary infrastructure.

Council also directed Administration to determine the cost of extending the Municipal Non-residential Phased Tax Program (PTP) to help Calgary non-residential property owners, and report back to Council in the first quarter of 2018 with a recommendation on either extending the PTP or finding a more efficient way to provide tax relief to businesses.

This City Council continues to display sound fiscal management and a solid track record, evidenced in the latest credit ratings, which are among the best of Canadian municipalities.

I will continue to encourage balance and both social and fiscal responsibility for the City of Calgary and ensure that we maintain consistent fiscal performance, maintain a low tax burden and sizable financial reserves, as well as continue to be innovative and lead economic and population growth.

Gian-Carlo Carra


Want to know more? 

Read the full 2018 Adjustments to Action Plan report


Undertanding City Finances 

Action-Plan-Infographic-1.jpg

I Can’t Believe This Garbage at the City

(1 minute read)

I’m happy to announce that the hours at the East Calgary Waste Facility will have new hours of operation!

Starting February 6, 2018, the East Calgary facility will switch to a 6-day-per-week (Monday to Saturday) operation, with seven-day operation taking place from April to October.

In late 2016 Waste & Recycling Services had a significant revenue shortfall due to a decline in waste being sent to their facilities. Facing this difficult situation, they made the decision to lay off landfill workers and reduce their hours of operation and switched to a staggered schedule where each of their sites would be open four days a week.

These changes helped reduce operating costs. However, through conversations with many customers, constituents and by observing what is working and what isn’t, it became clear that they needed to offer more predictable service to residents and convenience to the commercial customers who are responsible for most of their revenue.

With this change, they have increased the total number of weekdays they are open and increased the number of operating days to 13 per week in the summer instead of the current 12. This has all been accomplished without increasing our operating budget.

If you would like more information, please feel free to follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gccarra, Facebook at www.facebook.com/gccarra, or contact me at 403-268-5330.

Thanks!