Information regarding the proposed development on 25 AVE SW (306, 308, 310, 312)
On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, the City of Calgary hosted a community check-in in Cliff Bungalow – Mission with respect to the proposed multi-residential development on 25 AVE SW (306, 308, 310, 312). This page provides an overview of information on this development to date.
What is being proposed?
The developer is proposing a seven-storey (24 meter) multi-dwelling building, with a floor area ratio of 4.5 FAR (note: FAR is the relationship between the total amount of usable floor area that a building has, or has been permitted for the building, and the total area of the lot on which the building stands).
The current zoning allows for developments of up to 15 meters, and a floor area ratio of 3.5 FAR. To allow for this development to happen, the developer is seeking a height relaxation of 60% beyond the allowable height. Furthermore, changes to the Mission Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) will be required.
What is the background to this file?
This file has been open for many years, and was put on hold in 2016, after the developer failed to meet Council’s directions to submit a Development Permit (DP) in time, in support of the concurrent DP process (note: a concurrent DP process effectively means that an applicant is asked to submit a development permit alongside their land use amendment, to allow for a more informed decision).
Now the cool down period has expired, the developer has put forward a new land use amendment (LOC2017-0001). By virtue of it being a new application (though the proposal is identical to what was previously submitted), Administration, the Calgary Planning Commission (CPC) and Council will treat this as a “fresh” land use amendment. This means that previous recommendations by Planning Administration and the Calgary Planning Commission (refusal of the proposal) will be discarded.
What is the CBMCA’s position?
We are passionate about building and maintaining great community. We believe our neighbourhood provides The City with its best example of Smart Growth. It is a compact, walkable, energy-efficient, mixed-use, human-scale neighbourhood with a strong sense of place. We have achieved the same density of places like Chinatown and Beltline but without the need for tall buildings. We believe that is a testament to the continued validity of our Area Redevelopment Plans (ARPs) as planning documents that should be respected and upheld. It is from this standpoint that we continue to oppose spot upzoning and density bonusing as valid responses to densification.
The current proposal is a concern to us since, aside from its immediate surroundings, the impact may very likely extend beyond the specific site. If approved, it creates a precedent / planning vehicle that may simplify the process for future developers to also get approval for buildings that exceed the current allowable height, anywhere in our community. Currently, we have been able to keep such “spot upzoning” to a minimum, which has been an important factor in maintaining the community’s human-scale built form and character.
Generally speaking we are opposed to excessive height, and the present proposal in particular (as a representation of excessive height / spot upzoning) for the following reasons:
- The application is in direct conflict with the objectives, policy and intent of the Mission ARP, which calls for sensible densification and a maximum height of 15 meters on the proposed site. The Mission ARP is the result of a seven-year process — hundreds of man hours of work and thousands of hours of volunteer capital — kept is relevance (it is one of the more recent ARPs talking to contemporary planning concepts), and was developed with the intent of accommodating inevitable growth while retaining the community’s essential character and livability.
- Mission has plenty of capacity to allow for increased density. After 7 years of careful consideration, professional planning & development expertise, and community-specific considerations, several strategically placed high-rise clusters (17th Ave, Holly Cross, 26th Ave) zoned for 46m-61m, and low-rise developments (15m) across most of our community as well as 4th Street (15m-26m) were defined in our ARP. If we would to build out to the current allowable zoning, Mission would be the neighborhood with the highest density in Calgary.
- The Calgary Planning Commission (CPC) recommended Council abandon the proposed ARP amendment to accommodate the land use change. The Commission noted that the proposed amendment does not represent complementary infill and noted the many redevelopment opportunities within the area that aren’t seized yet.
- At an average density of 8,945 people/km2, Cliff Bungalow – Mission is already Calgary’s third most dense community, yet its urban form remains ostensibly human-scale in comparison to its peer group (see for example, Chinatown at 8,274 people/km2 and Beltline at 8,999 people/km2). Mission is one of the most desired communities exactly for that reason – its ability to accommodate many people and small businesses while retaining a ‘sense of place’ and cultural context. The introduction of tall buildings does not align with these attributes and is likely to compromise the unique character of the community.
- Cliff Bungalow – Mission is the only community in The City of Calgary’s Main Streets program that is exceeding density targets for both employment and residents.
- The ad hoc nature of spot upzoning, presents a higher risk of unintentional community erosion and too much weight being placed on individual decision makers – perhaps best illustrated by the Medical building on 2303 4th Street SW.
- Tall buildings have few if any benefits. As our community has shown, tall buildings are not a perquisite for densification. However, there is a growing body of evidence that shows they have poor environmental performance, threaten the social cohesion of communities, lead to poorer health outcomes, degrade the public realm and destroy the human scale of a city (Gifford, 2007; NCR, 2011 and Loomans, 2014).
What did we hear from the community?
To ensure the CBMCA’s values and position are aligned with the community, we organized two stakeholder engagement workshops on excessive height on two separate occasions (February 2015 and June 2016). The workshops were attended by 65 people and 85 people respectively. This is what we heard:
- A vast majority of community residents (82% and 83% respectively) expressed their objection to developments that exceed the allowable height.
- A vast majority of community residents (85%) agree that the Cliff-Bungalow and Mission Area Redevelopment Plans (ARPs) are valid statutory documents, and their principles should be respected by the City and developers at all times.
- Residents have a right to expect a stable planning regime, ad-hoc upzoning is suggesting the opposite.
- Density bonusing could lead to a proliferation of tall buildings and (if it’s implemented) should be planned for, not driven by the market.
- Tall buildings are not required for densification.
- We should only accept density bonusing where the community has clearly identified a project that needs funding.
Results of the past engagement workshops can be found here:
What can you do?
If you missed the previous CBMCA or City community check-ins, there is still plenty of scope to express your views. Your voice matters, as City Administration will weigh your perspectives in their decision for approval.
You may want to address how the proposed building is affecting you personally as a neighbour to the site, or as a resident of the wider community. There are certain arguments that resonate better than others, in order to have an impact on City Administration’s decision. Below are some ideas for framing your thoughts:
Arguments that are more effective:
- Concerns surrounding precedence (proliferation of taller buildings) and ad-hoc planning decision-making (see above).
- Concerns surrounding excessive height and poor contextual matching (the north side of 25 Ave is dominated by a 15m streetscape), and possible impact on quality of life (shadowing and privacy).
- Concerns surrounding traffic flow and safety. Lhe lane-way already has to absorb significant traffic from neighbouring developments. Allowing increased height, puts more pressure on the lane-way as this will translate to more residents, with corresponding safety concerns as a result.
These arguments tend to be less effective:
- Effect on resale value of surrounding houses/apartments
- Obstruction of views of adjacent units
How you can express your concern/support?
- Write a letter to City Administration and/or your ward 8 Councillor (Evan Woolley):
- Complete the City’s on-line feedback form (open until July 12, 2017): http://engage.calgary.ca/25AveSW. Please note that the site first takes you to a number of questions asking for amenities you’d like to be provided by the developer in exchange for height. For those for whom aspects of this development are problematic, we suggest paying attention to the bottom of the page, which allows you to provide feedback on the premises of the development itself.