On the agenda: Success metrics, green builds, mental health

· The Pulse

City council continues to meet in a hybrid setting to discuss the City Plan, higher energy efficiency standards, and mental health statistics.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 26, an urban planning committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 27, an executive committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, and a city auditor recruitment committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 29.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • A report details the 14 goals of the City Plan and establishes baselines to measure success. Goals include keeping the city's net carbon emissions under 135 million tonnes and being net-neutral by 2050. But the report suggests that, at the city's current rate, the carbon budget will deplete by 2037, 13 years ahead of schedule. Another goal is to welcome 600,000 new residents into Edmonton's redeveloping area, generally defined as inside Anthony Henday Drive. The current baseline population is about 811,000. One goal aims to have 50% of resident trips made using transit and active transportation; the baseline is 15%, a measurement from 2015. The city said the percentage has remained stable over the last 30 years, requiring "different and transformative approaches." The goals also include ensuring no one is in core housing need, meaning their housing is an appropriate size and costs less than 30% of their pre-tax income. The baseline for those in core housing need is a 2016 measurement, when nearly 50,000 residents faced such a challenge.
  • The city is limited in enforcing higher energy efficiency standards due to recent amendments to provincial legislation, but it can encourage and incentivize builders, according to a report going to an urban planning committee meeting. In June 2022, council asked administration to investigate ways the city could require more energy savings than the federal building code. The most recent federal codes include five tiers, which gradually decrease in energy consumption to net zero; provinces choose what tier to require. Alberta is set to adopt the first, least efficient tier on May 1. The city said it could work with stakeholders to advocate for higher tiers and explore incentives for greener builds. While the city's ability to require more stringent regulations is limited, it said it will outline opportunities in planning and development for climate action. Council is scheduled to receive a report on this approach in the next quarter.
  • About 35,000 people visited an Edmonton emergency room for addiction or mental health reasons between 2022 and 2023, according to a report to be reviewed at a community and public services committee meeting on Feb. 26. According to the report, nearly 5,000 people were admitted to inpatient addiction and mental health services between 2022 and 2023, a 20% increase compared to between 2019 and 2020. The report also notes that more than 1,200 people accessed detox and recovery services and 1,500 people accessed the opioid dependency program in Edmonton between 2022 and 2023. The report said there are 384 detox and recovery beds in the city.
An infill building and an older building in Edmonton.

An infill building in Edmonton. As part of the City Plan, the city wants many new residents to live in established neighbourhoods that will therefore need to redevelop with infill housing. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Here are some other agenda items:

  • The city is considering pre-emptively upzoning areas that are planned to be denser, prior to any specific development proposals. If the plan is approved, the city would select four to six "priority growth areas" and recommend new zones, with the changes requiring a public hearing sometime in the first quarter of 2025.
  • City staff are looking at implementing mandatory energy labelling for new construction. EnerGuide ratings are required on fridges and dishwashers, so consumers can compare how much energy they use. The rating system has been expanded to show the energy consumption of homes, but it is not required. The city said in a report that requiring energy consumption labelling on single-family homes, duplexes, and some multifamily homes could be a useful tool to increase energy literacy. However, some have told the city that the cost could be prohibitive. An EnerGuide assessment for a new home can be up to $500. EnerGuide assessments are not available for large residential buildings and commercial buildings.
  • A lease that would allow the Arts Habitat Association of Edmonton to rent the Ortona Armoury in Rossdale at below-market rates will be considered at an executive committee meeting on Feb. 28. In previous years, the building had been operated through licences between the city and various artists and organizations. Under the new agreement, the association would rent the building for $1 a year and be responsible for operating costs, property taxes, and repairs, and would create and contribute to a reserve fund. In December, council approved a three-year funding agreement to cover the gap between expenses and revenues in the initial years of the lease.
  • Administration is recommending a non-competitive procurement so a company that has built much of the underground utilities and streets in Blatchford can continue working on the project. M.A.P. Water & Sewer Services was competitively sourced for Blatchford West Stages 2, 3, and 5, and the city wants to extend the company's contract to include Stage 6. This stage includes the construction of a fire station, which needs to be built this year as an existing one nearby will close as a result of the Yellowhead Trail freeway conversion, the city said. The contract extension is valued at $27 million. Executive committee is set to debate the non-competitive procurement at a meeting on Feb. 28.
  • Administration has identified pop-up dog parks in nine neighbourhoods that received positive feedback and could be made permanent, a report set for a community and public services committee meeting said. The initiative would cost $642,000 for initial construction and about $20,000 in annual operating costs. Coun. Michael Janz told CBC Edmonton the parks are a good return on investment. "It's one of the biggest 'bang for our buck' things that we can do as a municipality … we know in Edmonton there's as many dogs, if not more dogs than there are children. So we know that dogs are really important: that they build community, that they bring neighbours together."
  • The city said it plans to advance feasibility studies for district energy systems in River Crossing, Exhibition Lands, Bonnie Doon, and Heritage Valley. District energy systems consist of energy centres that produce zero-emission thermal energy to heat, cool, and provide energy to buildings across a neighbourhood. The city is constructing a district energy hub downtown at 102A Avenue and 97 Street, based out of the Winspear Centre expansion. That project has increased in cost from $28 million to $36 million and decreased in scope, providing only heating, instead of heat and power. At the time, Coun. Erin Rutherford said she couldn't support the project, "knowing the current economic conditions we're in, knowing where else we want to push levers on climate action, seeing that kind of operating loss on a year-over-year basis ranging between $1.5 and $3 million."
  • Councillors will receive a private report during a city auditor recruitment committee meeting on Feb. 29.

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