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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The Grid Proposed Development in Inglewood

Having a thoughtful conversation about development in our neighbourhood - watch Gian-Carlo's take on The Grid. 

I wanted to start a conversation with neighbours in Inglewood about the proposed 22-story “Grid” development. While this specific development impacts Inglewood primarily, the exercise and thought process surrounding planning and development is also a conversation every community and community association that is experiencing development pressure should have about how to approach these propositions.

Background and Context

When I was first approached by B & A Planning Group about their proposal to develop a 22-storey building in Inglewood, like many of my neighbours in the community, my initial impression was one of surprise (if you have not received their pamphlet, you can see it here). I decided to walk the proposed site at the corner of Blackfoot Trail SE and 19 Street SE, the former gas station (which has been remediated) to get a better sense of things in scale. The site is located at the eastern gateway to the community, across from the Blackfoot Truck Stop lands, south of the SoBo development and adjacent to the future Southeast 17 Avenue SE Bus Rapid Transit bridge.                

In conjunction with the amazing reinvestment we're about to make on Inglewood's main street through the delivery of the 9 Avenue SE Streetscape Master Plan, we are well into construction on an amazing piece of reinvestment in the amount of $80 million dollars on International Avenue - 17 Avenue South East – one of East Calgary’s amazing main streets. In July 2016, The City obtained another $80 million dollars from the federal government to connect the work being done on International Avenue to Inglewood through the incredible multi-use transit bridge.

The transit bridge will come down the escarpment and will span the entire irrigation canal, Deerfoot Trail and the Bow River. It will follow along the former baseball diamond and terminate at the Blackfoot Truck Stop.  Not only is that an amazing transit route that will remove Calgary Transit vehicles out of traffic (and eventually carry an LRT spur line off of the Green Line) but it's also going to include a high quality, amazing multi-use pathway and for the first time ever, cyclists and pedestrians are finally going to be safely, conveniently, and spectacularly connected from Inglewood up to the amazing communities of Greater Forest Lawn.

The ‘Donut Hole’ in Inglewood

The community of Inglewood began advocating for this reinvestment into the community back in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, we have been advocating for the redevelopment of the Blackfoot Truck Stop lands, since that time, arguing that what we as a community have is a whole in the middle of our community in need of urban development.

The donut hole - Inglewood.jpg

Many residents in the community of Inglewood don’t know that there is a deep history of these vacant lands at the eastern gateway to Calgary’s inner city. This part of the community is a former employment zone – the former employment zone for Inglewood. This area used to be where a massive number of Inglewood residents were employed in steel foundries, in warehouses, in lumber yards and in market gardens. Inglewood residents would walk to this central area for work. When the railroad no longer became the primary transportation mode of choice and the City of Calgary ran a freeway through the community, the classic 1960's “tail of a dragon” scenario ensued with the Blackfoot Trail sterilizing this part of the community for development, leaving this empty hole in Inglewood and showing the failings of poor urban planning.

Downtown Inglewood

Since 2003, the Inglewood Community Association - through my leadership - has been advocating that this central area should be a ‘mini-downtown’ for our community; it should fulfill its historic place in the story of Inglewood as an employment centre while encouraging the case, through increased use and density, of bringing the modern conveniences of amenities, like a grocery store to Inglewood, creating one of the major hearts of the urban village that is Inglewood.

We've been very successful in the last seven years. With the massive reinvestment in East Calgary, and funding for policy plans like the 9 Avenue Streetscape Master Plan and the new Inglewood Area Redevelopment Plan, among other things, we now have the market responding to the work converging on this area. 

This project is certainly more intense than anything that I would have anticipated.   

Mischaracterizing the Process

Unfortunately, some of my neighbours in Inglewood have been suggesting that I'm 100% for this project, and that the community is having conversations regarding gearing up to fight the project.

First off, let's not be hasty. Second, I am neither for or against this project and any characterization of my position that contradicts that is false. Recently, it came to my attention that members of the Inglewood Community Association indicated that they were informed by the developer that I had given them my full-throated support for this project. When I reached out to the developers, they denied ever having indicated that.

I am one fifteenth of the decision as to whether something like this takes place. What we need to do right now is that Inglewood residents need to have good thoughtful conversations about this development and its planning merits or lack thereof, refine the points for and/or against this project and be prepared to discuss those ideas with their neighbours, myself, and in front of City Council at the Public Hearing of Council. 

The process for this land use change, like any other land use change that has proceeded before it, has not changed.

  1. Consultation and engagement with the community by the developers and/or their agents;
  2. Consultation with City Administration with recommendation to approve or refuse the land use application;
  3. Hearing at Calgary Planning Commission and approval or refusal of City Administration recommendation; and
  4. Public Hearing  at City Council

City Council will be weighing in on this land use application at the Public Hearing stage. At this Public Hearing, City Council will get the opportunity to hear from everybody – proponents and opponents alike.  Until that time, I'm not legally able to make a decision until that point. Obviously, my advocacy for the area will help shape Council’s decision, and my advocacy will be based on the planning merits of this proposal and weighing its benefits and its challenges with respect to city policy, the developers position, and community desires and aspirations within the context of creating a win-win-win scenario if possible.

Planning Merit – What Does That Mean?

It’s really important that we realize that this is a proposition to put density in a transit oriented development area that the community of Inglewood has been advocating for, for a very long time, and it’s important to take the merit of the plan into account. Failing to do that and not asking the right questions can be a recipe for disaster. We need to ensure we follow the best principles of community planning possible.

Bend in the Bow.png

What are some of the questions that should be asked and answered within a community context? Here are some of the questions City Council will be asking presenters at the Public Hearing as an example:

  1. Is this the right amount of density for the area in question?
  2. What are some of the potential benefits? What are its challenges?
  3. Is it well deployed?
  4. Does this project adhere to the principles set out in the Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan? If yes, which sections? If not, where?
  5. Does this project adhere to the principles set out in the current Inglewood Area Redevelopment Plan and draft Inglewood Area Redevelopment Plan? Does it jive with the principles set out in the Inglewood Design Initiative?
  6. Which City policies take primacy over others in making this land use application decision?
  7. What does the community of Inglewood get in return for this project, if successful? What would any possible community benefits package be?

It is important to answer these and other appropriate and thoughtful questions prior to the Public Hearing of Council, and I am more than willing to meet with residents of Inglewood to have these conversations in a congenial way.


When I went to city hall seven years ago, it was to achieve everything we're in the process of achieving right now. It was always known that as a community association, we had very little power, but we had a lot of influence, but only if we came to the table with the developer and The City very thoughtfully.

What I've seen over the last few years is a real devolution from that thoughtfulness that we had developed 10 years prior. I really want to encourage everyone to sit down and think about the community’s best future; to think about everything that we've been working to achieve, where we're at in that process, and how to make sure that every process and every project that comes to the table contributes to that best future.

The community of Inglewood is in the middle of our local area planning process. These are exactly the kinds of conversations we should be having right now. What I want each and every Inglewood resident, institution and business to do is to challenge each other, to challenge me and to have thoughtful conversations.

As always, I encourage community members – residents, businesses and other Inglewood institutions – to reach out to me.

Gian-Carlo Carra

Information from B&A Planning Group for the community

B&A Planning Groups proposed time line

B and A Chart.png

B&A Planning Group contact

Tamille Beynon

Community Engagement Representative

Telephone: 403-692-5234

Email: tbeynon@bapg.ca

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 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. 



Improving Calgary's worst intersection - 25 Ave & MacLeod Trail South

For years we have heard from our Ward 9 neighbours, especially those in Erlton and Ramsay, about their dissatisfaction when crossing MacLeod Trail at 25th Ave South. Long waits for both cars and pedestrians coupled with delayed crossings when an LRT is approaching has caused this hair-pulling, blood-boiling frustration for those travelling from east to west. 

With emerging best practices in transit-oriented development (TOD) dominating Calgary's urban planning ethos, focusing on neighbourhood life and creating a condition where mixed-use developments can thrive at this intersection is vital. 

There were plans 'on the books' to update this intersection, though those plans were out-dated and, basically, unbuildable. As a result, Council decided to omit the old plans and, in principle, introduce new plans that would  promote walkable, transit-oriented neighbourhoods around the Erlton LRT station. 

Right now these plan are unfunded and only in their infancy. Deep engagement with the affected communities is needed and, though, a lot of work was done to get us here, a lot more work has to come to get us to where we want to be. 

We encourage all our Ward 9 neighbours, especially those in Erlton, to reach out to our office and share your thoughts on how we can make the intersection of MacLeod Trail and 25th Ave into a vibrant (and functional) part of our inner-city. 


12 Street SE Bridge - Closure Update

Your Team Ward 9 knows that our neighbours in Inglewood and Ramsay have been tremendously patient with all the construction in and around their communities over the last year, particularly the Zoo Flood Mitigation project and the 12 Street SE Bridge Replacement project.  We are extremely grateful to all of you for your continued patience and understanding. 

We have been working with the 12 Street SE Bridge Replacement project team over the last year to keep the original bridge open for as along as possible. The intent was that it would be used as a pedestrian bridge so that Inglewoodians and Ramsayites could continue to access the other side of the Bow river and Zoo Island. 

Unfortunately,  your Team Ward 9 recently found of that the existing 12 Street SE Bridge will have to be closed as a result of its deteriorating state.  What we know right now is that the original bridge will be removed as early as Spring 2017. We will be continuing to update our neighbours in Inglewood and Ramsay as we learn more about the timelines and impact on our communities. 

Want to know more about the removal of the existing 12 Street SE bridge? Check out the FAQs.