On the agenda: Surface parking lots, Metro Line to Blatchford, and funding transit growth

· The Pulse

This week, community and public services committee meets on Sept. 18, urban planning committee meets on Sept. 19, executive committee meets on Sept. 20, and audit committee meets on Sept. 22.

Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • Administration says just 30 of 275 surface parking lots in Centre City (which includes Downtown, The Quarters, North Edge, Chinatown, and Oliver) have a current development permit. A "high number" of lots are both underused and do not meet regulatory requirements. About 85% of the lots "appear to have existed before 2010" when the Capital City Downtown Plan was developed, which administration suggests is evidence that "overarching policies are effective" for limiting the expansion of surface parking lots. Puneeta McBryan of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association said the lots have to be better. "We cannot tolerate this level of disrepair, eyesores and frankly safety issues too — some of these lots are in conditions where you can break an ankle walking across with the potholes and the poor maintenance," she told Global News. Council will consider several options for enforcement, but administration cautions that closing surface parking lots creates vacant land, "which could then be subjected to social disorder."
  • Construction on the Metro Line LRT extension to Blatchford is expected to be completed this year, with service beginning in the first quarter of 2024. Operating the full extension to Blatchford Gate station would require $4.23 million per year, while deferring the opening of that station "until service is warranted" and operating the line just to the new permanent NAIT station would cost $2.43 million per year. The existing temporary NAIT station will be decommissioned in 2024 after the extension enters service. Council previously deferred a decision on funding operations for the extension.
  • Increasing transit service hours from 2024 to 2033 would require $692.5 million in capital funding for 415 new buses, and $174 million in operational funding to put them into service. Maintaining 2022 service levels per capita over the same timeframe would require $180.7 million in capital funding for 110 new buses, and $70 million in operational funding to put them into service. Administration has evaluated several tools to fund the growth, including a 10-year dedicated tax levy that could generate $247.1 million through a 1% annual tax or $123.5 million through a 0.5% annual tax. Other tools considered include property taxes, local improvement taxes, user fees, development charges, and off-site levies. Additionally, administration says "continued advocacy to other orders of government for transit funding support and additional revenue-generating authorities is required."
Vehicles parked in a gravel surface parking lot with towers in the background

Enforcing all known unpermitted surface parking lots would require "additional resources and a corresponding remediation budget," administration says. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Here are some of the other new agenda items:

  • Federal and provincial funding through the Rapid Housing Initiative and Affordable Housing Partnership Program, respectively, will result in the creation of 74 affordable housing units for a total cost of $34 million. The city will receive $15.2 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which administers the RHI program, and another $4.9 million from the Alberta Social Housing Corporation, which administers the AHPP.
  • Administration recommends approval of a licence agreement with the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association for up to $4.67 million for arena usage for the 2023-2024 winter season. That will accommodate about 26,784 hours of rental time and is up from $4.1 million for 24,088 hours in 2022-2023.
  • Council will review a series of recommendations from the Edmonton Council for Early Learning and Care that were originally drafted in May 2021. The ECELC recommendations include that the city engage to "ensure that high quality, affordable, accessible, and inclusive early learning and care" is part of plans like the Zoning Bylaw Renewal and that the city convene a data working group to support assessment, planning, and management.
  • Administration says "significant progress" has been made in "transforming city infrastructure to meet modern design expectations" since the adoption of Complete Streets Standards in 2018, citing the construction of more than 520 curb extensions, 80 permanent raised crossings, and more than 150 adaptable curb extensions and two-staged crossings. Another 180 curb extensions, a traffic-calming measure that widens the sidewalk to reduce crossing distance for pedestrians, are expected to be constructed this year. An extensive update to the standards is underway and is expected to be completed in 2024.
  • To improve environmental planning, communication, and reporting, administration has created a chief climate officer role, is establishing an internal climate task force, and will include an environment and climate review section on all council reports starting early next year.
  • Executive committee will consider five bylaws to designate properties as municipal historic resources, including The Boardwalk, the Revillon Building, St. Francis of Assisi Friary/St. Anthony's College/St. Francis of Assisi Church, the William Buster Residence, and the Rossdale Brewery.
  • The city auditor made no recommendations as part of an audit of the Valley Line LRT P3 and Delivery, finding the city's procurement was "fair, open, and transparent" and project agreements "clearly allocated risks, protected the city's interests, and set out requirements for communication."
  • There are currently 37 recommendations from the city auditor outstanding, two of which are overdue: developing performance measures for enforcement services and developing detailed service agreements for governance of Fort Edmonton Park. Administration has now fully implemented its IT disaster recovery program as of July 20; that recommendation was originally due by Dec. 31, 2021.
  • An audit of the city's capital asset management found opportunity for several improvements, including the development of guidance for asset disposition and better data verification. Administration has accepted all five recommendations. At the end of 2022, the city had an inventory of infrastructure assets — bridges, roads, facilities, parks, buses, etc. — with an estimated replacement cost of $34.7 billion.
  • An audit of the city's IT asset management found that administration "is managing IT assets to optimize the use of resources and safeguard these assets." The city auditor made two recommendations for improvement, both of which administration has accepted.

There are no council meetings scheduled for the week of Sept. 25.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.