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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Suite, Suite Calgary


(5 minute read)

I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about secondary suites.  On December 11th, at Calgary City Council, it was a pretty historic day for the City of Calgary and for my Great Neighborhoods mission at City Hall.

Why? Because we significantly moved the ball further down the field with respect to secondary suites.

What happened?

On December 11, City Council agreed in a 10-5 vote to direct City Administration to bring bylaw changes applying to the ENTIRE city around the issue of secondary suites. The objective of this move is to update and amend the Land Use Bylaw to make secondary suites a DISCRETIONARY USE everywhere secondary suites are currently not permitted as a discretionary use, rather than continuing to restrict R1-zoned districts.

The process today

Currently, when you bring forward a land use application to City Hall, you essentially say, "I'd like to convert my R1 property to R1s." Property owners present before Council asking for this change, often sharing personal details as to why they want to build a secondary suite. Neighbours can come out for or against this land use application, which is not only onerous and time-consuming for Council but pits neighbour-against-neighbour and can influence decisions on land use applications to be based on emotions rather than planning merit. 

If you emerge from the other side successfully, you get a permitted use for a secondary suite within the four walls of your existing home, or you get a discretionary use for a cottage in your backyard or a carriage house suite above your garage.

Discretionary Use vs. Permitted Use

The difference between a permitted use and a discretionary use is this: if everything was zoned "permitted use" you'd be allowed to build a secondary suite as long as you meet the building code requirements without going through the steps of re-designating your land (which is what we currently do). With discretionary use, you would have to apply for a development permit. That development permit gets scrutinized by City Administration and it also gets weighed in on by your neighbours.

Discretionary use is a compromise.

I was initially concerned that by making secondary suites a discretionary use it would translate into six hours of almost semi-formal court proceedings at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board; and, if you had wealthy neighbours who wanted to lawyer up, you would also need to lawyer up when applying for a secondary suite. In my mind, this would be a nightmare.

I was backed off of the ledge of fighting against discretionary use. Secondary suites are legal throughout most of Canada and it has not resulted in an explosion of Subdivision and Development Appeal Board hearings. What happens at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board is they look at the technical merits of the case and if you meet them, you're free to renovate your personal and private property.

This decision, when fully implemented, is going to take an entire step out of the process whereby you are no longer required to come to City Hall and air your most intimate and personal life details to obtain a secondary suite.

My stance on what happened

The Notice of Motion that triggered this discussion was brought forward by Councillor Shane Keating, and it had three clauses:

  1. That secondary suites be a discretionary use throughout the city (except where they are already permitted);
  2. That we establish a registry so that all legal secondary suites are part of a database that we can track; and,
  3. That we return to the era of charging application fees for secondary suites.

I have been asked that if I was so supportive, why did I not put my name on that Notice of Motion – the fact is, I did not sign on because I was not in support of the third clause.

I supported the discretionary use. I also support the registry because it makes sense since we want to be able to track data. As time goes on, and as the black market of secondary suites transitions into a white market, the registry will help in determining and tracking this changeover.

The final thing, though, are the fees. When you're bringing a land use application forward, it's a $6000 application fee. The City of Calgary was waiving that application fee as an incentive to build secondary suites and was also waiving the development permit application fee (which is $454)  for the same reason. Council (unfortunately) voted to reinstate these application fees. So while the age of coming in and getting a land use change is no longer necessary, you’re now going to be on the hook for a development permit application fee and a building permit application fee.

I am happy that Council supported secondary suites and its discretionary use through a 10-5 vote. On the whole, Council did a very good thing.

Were there other votes on secondary suites?

There were a number of other Motions Arising that were brought forward on this specific item before Council. I consistently voted against them. In the end, they were resolutions that told City Administration to think about other things while updating and amending the bylaw.

I was against them because:

  1. I want to keep the regulation on this simple; and,
  2. A lot of the concerns about secondary suites are not concerns about secondary suites. They're concerns about bad landlords and bad tenants and we have a Community Standards Bylaw that is meant to address these things. As a person who is against cumbersome regulation and red tape, this was contrary to my principles.

I'm hoping that this message gets across to my colleagues when this comes back in March for final approval, and that we move forward with the discretionary use with a licensing system and moderate application fees for secondary suites.

On the whole, December 11 was an historic day for the #YYCSuite movement, and I'm looking forward to March 2018 when we actually enact all of this into law.


What the 2018 Budget Means for Calgary

(2 minute read)

Today Calgary City Council is in the middle of our week-long budget deliberations. This budget is the last of the four-year budget, the 2015-2018 Action Plan, that we started one year into the last term and so it carried over into this one.

In January 2018, City Council and City Administration will begin the year-long process of establishing the next four-year business plan and budget cycle, that will be called One Calgary. I'm really looking forward to working with Calgarians in general, and Ward 9’s East Calgary communities specifically, on that. We're going to do very deep and meaningful engagement and we're setting ourselves up to be in a position to take the Great Neighborhood's transformation to the next level.

Getting back to the budget before us, this 2018 budget was a really difficult one. City Council gave City Administration some very tough marching orders. We directed them to reduce taxes and increase services (this is the kind of balancing act you can only perform when you're in the middle of transforming the organization).

I think we're striking that balance well. This year we're looking at putting almost $2 billion of capital work into the economy, building the city that we need and keeping Calgarians employed.

This budget balances that direction pretty well. One important feature of this 2018 budget is that the City of Calgary will be using $23 million of tax room to pay for the financing fees for the Green Line, making this historic project in connectivity and city building even more viable.

Another important aspect of the 2018 budget is something that City Council has heard prior to, and during the last election - safety, safety, safety. This year, the Calgary Police Service is asking for $20 million to increase their ability to serve us in this downturn in the economy, whose effects have been exacerbated by this fentanyl-driven crime wave. I'm very supportive of this ask from the Calgary Police Service and I expect Council will support that as well.

Lastly, another significant add-on in this 2018 budget is $4 million to maintain our soberingly and amazingly successful low-income bus fare project. What City Council learned is that there are many more citizens in Calgary who need the low-income bus fare program that we planned for. While this is a provincial responsibility, the City of Calgary cannot and should not deny mobility and access to the users of this program. We will be pursuing the province for them to pay their appropriate portion of this program in the very near term.  

The discussions from City Council that is emerging is very interesting and I look forward to hearing and participating in the debate that is soon to come.  We’ve had a lot of thoughtful insight, and a lot of that thoughtfulness is translating into what we're going to be doing over the next four years.

As the last budget in the 2015-2018 Action Plan, City Council is dealing with the downturn of the economy, and I will be looking towards ensuring a budget that puts the Calgarians, Calgary businesses, organizations, and institutions in a position where we are coiled and prepared to move forward into years of growth and prosperity over the next four years.

The Jack Long Foundation's Elderhouse

On Friday, June 30, Gian-Carlo met with neighbours in Inglewood to discuss the Jack Long Foundation's plans to build Elderhouse. This pilot project is a new and innovative approach to address the need for affordable seniors housing, which allows older adults to age-in-place and works towards Jack Long's vision of Inglewood where people of all ages, wages and stages can live, work and play. 

Watch Gian-Carlo explain the history of the two sites that were being considered for this project. He also outlines the "Move Forward Plan" to ensure that the community is engaged in the planning process, can help decide what is "developable" land and what is not with the ultimate goal of creating high-quality park space for the community through the development of Elderhouse.


  • Council made a decision to allow the Jack Long Foundation to purchase 2244 15A Street SE
  • The Jack Long Foundation currently has a Development Permit in with the City of Calgary. The community and neighbours can comment on the development and provide feedback on how to achieve the best outcome for the site.  
  • The Inglewood Community Association's Redevelopment Committee will be reviewing this Development Permit on July 5th and will provide feedback on behalf of the ICA. 

Move Forward Plan

  • Over the next year and a bit, the Ward 9 Office along with our partners in the City of Calgary will engage, in a meaningful way, with the community on this project. 
  • Through this process we will explore where is appropriate to develop, where is not appropriate to develop, where is the best place to develop a park space and how we would like  the money from the land transfer and sales to be used to develop a high-quality park space for the community. 
  • This project and the park space will formally be included in the Inglewood Area Redevelopment Plan.
  • Calgary City Council as well as Urban Strategies and Real Estate and Development Services will all be working  with our office and the community to achieve the goals that the community outlines for a high-quality park space in conjunction with Jack Long Foundation's Elderhouse pilot project. 

Notice of Motions for the Jack Long Foundation


The world needs more Canada (and Calgary!)

Calgarians have been divided around the idea of hosting another Olympic Games. On the one hand, those who oppose Calgary putting forward a bid for 2026 believe that the Olympics have become a deeply corrupt organization that costs a tremendous amount of money with little return for the hosting city. On the other hand, many reflect on the success of the 1988 Winter Games and the spirit of volunteerism and pride that showcased our incredible city in this stunning part of the world. 

On January 23 at a Regular Meeting of Council, City of Calgary Administration presented an update on the work of the Olympic Bid Exploration Committee. This issue will be coming back to Council in June 2017 with Administration's recommendations on the outcome of the Olympic Bid Committee's work. It is at that point that Council will be making a decision as to whether they should pursue the Olympic bid or not. 

Though the concerns expressed by many Calgarians around putting forward a bid to host the 2026 Winter Games are compelling, we also have an opportunity to prove to the world what good government, an amazing business community and an incredible natural environment can do for the Olympics. At the end of the day, the Olympics need Calgary more than Calgary needs the Olympics.