The Pulse: Sept. 22, 2023

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 22°C: Sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind becoming south 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 22. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Green/Gold: The High Level Bridge will be lit green and gold for U of A Days, which is being run by the University of Alberta until Sept. 24. (details)
  • 7:30pm: The Edmonton Elks play the BC Lions at Commonwealth Stadium. (details)

City councillors sit in a row behind a long, curved desk in a brightly lit room with light wooden furniture.

Advocates gear up for public hearing on zoning bylaw

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Stakeholder groups are rallying their supporters ahead of a public hearing on Oct. 16, after which Edmonton's city council will decide whether to adopt a new zoning bylaw.

The zoning bylaw renewal represents the largest overhaul of the bylaw since the 1960s. The proposed changes would simplify the number and types of zones in Edmonton. Multi-unit developments of up to three storeys would be allowed in residential areas without requiring a public hearing, and the new bylaw would introduce mixed-use zones to promote walkable combinations of homes and businesses.

Among the supporters are Grow Together Edmonton, Paths for People, and Climate Justice Edmonton. They have come together to organize Drinks for Density, a social event on Sept. 25 designed to equip people with the language needed to confidently speak in favour of the new bylaw at the hearing.

"It's kind of an unfortunate truth that municipal issues don't really get the kind of attention that provincial or federal ones do," Grow Together representative David Berry told Taproot, "even though these are the ones that will affect your day-to-day life. This, again, literally has the potential to change the neighbourhood you live in and what you want out of it."

A group called the Coalition for Better Infill is encouraging bylaw opponents to ask council to delay approving it for a year. It has distributed brochures in mature neighbourhoods and published a critical op-ed on Sept. 17. The group was created after an urban planning committee meeting in June, at which many of the same players spoke for and against the proposed bylaw.

"What's happening is that people are organizing in their own communities," spokesperson Kevin Taft said. "We're really happy to support community groups around the city who are wanting to engage with the public."

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Headlines: Sept. 22, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) approved only a fraction of the City of Edmonton's application for the latest round of the Rapid Housing Initiative. While the city submitted "strong and compelling" projects to create around 351 affordable housing units, the CMHC approved only two projects for a total of $15.4 million, which will support 74 new affordable units. These are the city-led Holyrood Permanent Supportive Housing project and the partner-led St. Paul's Legacy Project. "I'm pretty sure we all are disappointed, but we will continue our advocacy to the feds," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.
  • City council's executive committee heard potential options for generating more transit revenue, with the cost of bus and LRT services expected to increase by millions in coming years. Options included a dedicated transit tax, a local improvement tax, higher property taxes, and higher fares. Coun. Ashley Salvador introduced a successful motion to have administration draft a multi-year plan for public transit funding, expected next spring. Sarah Feldman, a director with the Edmonton Transit Service, told CBC that the city's bus service did not grow in proportion to the 18% population increase from 2015-2022, with a service gap of approximately 5,000 conventional bus hours per week.
  • Edmonton Police Service officers used force in 1,381 interactions with the public from January to May 2023, which is 8.5% more than the same period last year, according to a report on "control tactics" presented to the Edmonton Police Commission on Sept. 21. The total number has been trending upward since 2019. Staff Sgt. Joe Tassone, who presented the report, said mental health and drug-related occurrences are on the rise, but there have been fewer injuries to the public and officers, which he attributes to internal training strategies. About 16% of people against whom police used force had a minor injury, while 3% either died or required medical treatment.
  • The city and regional partners announced they are welcoming more youth and student riders to Arc, the region's electronic transit payment system. Beginning Sept. 25, riders in Edmonton aged 24 and under, riders in other parts of the region aged 18 and under, and students who are not part of U-Pass or school board transit programs can sign up for youth and student Arc profiles. Arc will be rolled out to students participating in school board transit programs throughout the 2023-2024 school year.
  • CBC took a look at the efforts involved in the landscaping project accompanying the Valley Line Southeast LRT expansion, which has planted more than 2,000 trees, 7,000 shrubs, and 120,000 grasses and perennials. Along the track, the project team has been installing soil cells, which are hollow plastic modules filled with topsoil that provide structure while allowing tree roots to grow.
  • The city announced a new grant for Indigenous-led non-profit organizations. The Operating Grant for Indigenous-led Organizations has $500,000 available and is aimed at promoting equity, ending poverty, eliminating racism, and advancing reconciliation. The application deadline is Oct. 11.
  • The Alberta government released a long-awaited report on the possibility of creating an Alberta Pension Plan and moving away from the Canada Pension Plan. According to the report, produced by consultant LifeWorks, the province is entitled to a $334-billion asset transfer from the CPP in 2027, which is more than half of all funds held by the CPP Investment Board. The province said it is still in the hypothetical stages for withdrawing from the CPP but could hold a referendum after public consultations in the fall and spring.

Correction: This file has been updated to reflect the correct age range for youth and student transit riders in the region using Arc cards.

A grassy island in a river, connected to shore by covered bridges, under a pink and blue sky

Weekend agenda: Sept. 22-24, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This weekend offers an outdoor shopping experience, a welcome-back to the Copper and Blue, a stroll along the North Saskatchewan, a plant exchange, a park opening, and a celebration of tiny films.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup and the Food Roundup.

Photo: The opening of the Northeast River Valley Park offers family activities, storytelling walks, and a scavenger hunt. (City of Edmonton)