Last week was my final meeting as a member of Urban Planning Committee this term. There are three standing committees that councillors rotate through, and as you might imagine, I was thrilled to start off my term on Urban Planning Committee.
As committee assignments shift, I thank my committee colleagues for 16 months of debate and collaboration, and I look forward to my next rotation on Executive Committee. This is also a good opportunity to reflect on and share some highlights of the past 16 months.
Much of the work we do at Urban Planning Committee is related to land use and transportation. Council, alongside city staff, are tasked with following through on the vision outlined in the City Plan - Edmonton's Municipal Development Plan and Transportation Master Plan.
The City Plan calls for 50% of trips to be made by public or active modes, which means we need to work to make it more efficient, comfortable, and viable for Edmontonians to walk, bike, roll, and take transit to get where they need to go.
Mass Transit Plan & BRT
I was excited to help Urban Planning Committee advanced transportation choice by supporting the Mass Transit Plan. This plan includes Bus Rapid Transit to complement our LRT system so that Edmontonians can get where they need to go in a safe, reliable, and efficient manner.
Planning and design work for the next two Bus Rapid Transit lines - B1 and B2 - is underway, as well as a new bus garage to accommodate up to 440 zero-emissions buses. If you're interested in a deeper dive on our Mass Transit Plan you can check out my blog here.
Bike Plan Implementation
Committee and Council also took a significant step forward in implementing Edmonton’s Bike Plan, which will connect existing routes and front-load investment to generate network effects.
I am proud to have put forward the motion that directed city staff to prepare a budget item for the full implementation of Edmonton's bike network by 2030. This work was subsequently funded during the 2023-2026 budget at $100 million - the largest investment into active transportation in Edmonton's history.
Not only is this work imperative for building an equitable, affordable, and safe mobility system, but it's critical that we provide low-carbon transportation options as we look to meet the targets set out in Edmonton's Energy Transition Strategy, which calls for a connected, city-wide bike network by 2030.
I was pleased to see Urban Planning Committee take steps to enhance our Complete Streets Design and Construction Standards for Pedestrian Through Zones, which will contribute to a better public realm for folks who are walking, biking, and rolling in our neighbourhoods. When we are rebuilding and renewing our communities, we must be building to a high standard that supports safe mobility.
All of these bodies of work were supported during the four-year budget, where Council directed investment towards public and active transit, and enhanced sidewalk connections.
Modernizing Our Approach to Land Use
When in comes to local government, land use is one of our primary responsibilities. The way we use land and organize our communities has a direct impact on the way we live, move, recreate, and experience our city. I was incredibly excited to help lead work on the modernization of Edmonton's urban planning regime while serving on Urban Planning Committee.
Edmonton continues to lead nationally when it comes to zoning and housing reforms. Urban Planning Committee has overseen the development of our District Plans, as well as the Zoning Bylaw Renewal. This intergenerational work will allow for greater housing choice, more economic opportunity and growth along nodes and corridors. Ultimately, this will support more amenities, housing options, and employment opportunities closer to home in 15-minute districts. By changing the way we grow, we will transform our city, reel in sprawl, support affordability, and keep taxes in check.
Zoning Bylaw Renewal
I like to think of zoning as the rulebook for what you can build where in the city. Edmonton’s current Zoning Bylaw is going through its first comprehensive overhaul in over 60 years, rethinking how, what and why the City regulates in terms of land and development. This is a once in a generation opportunity to ensure zoning, one of our most powerful city building tools, will enable us to achieve the City Plan vision of walkable, connected, amenity-rich 15-minute communities, and a city that is much more environmentally and fiscally sustainable than the one we have today.
Committee helped guide the draft zoning bylaw renewal and district plans forward, and I am excited to see this work continue towards final approval.
Growth Management Framework
Committee also supported the identification of priority areas within our redeveloping areas, and will continue working on the ways we can support their revitalization through strategic infrastructure investments as part of the City’s Growth Management Framework.
We saw through the four year budget process that there is a direct relationship between our city's financial health and the way that we grow. Growing in and up, instead of out, will ensure we are making efficient use of our public infrastructure and building a city that will be financially resilient for years to come.
Again, all of these conversations and decisions are rooted in the City Plan’s vision for a healthy, urban, climate resilient Edmonton. The continuation City Plan Implementation was funded during the 2023-2026 budget.
I regularly reflect on the fact that Ward Métis is the only ward that straddles both banks of the North Saskatchewan, therefore, it is doubly as important that we preserve its integrity for future residents. This is true for the entire city.
River Valley Modernization
Urban planning committee oversaw our ongoing River Valley Planning Modernization project. We have been working hard to ensure that the River Valley, the backbone of our open space network, remains vibrant and ecologically resilient as the city grows.
A pending body of work that remains related to the River Valley Modernization Project is the River Valley Trails Strategy. This work will deliver a strategy to identify an approved trail network (including paved, granular and natural tread/single-track trails) and develop trail management recommendations in the River Valley and Ravine System. I look forward to finding ways to advance this over the coming months.
2 Million New Trees
Edmonton's City Plan has an ambitious target of planting 2 million new trees. Not only do trees contribute to the environmental sustainability of our city, they help keep our communities cool in the summer, improve our physical and mental health, and add to the beauty of our neighbourhoods.
Urban Planning Committee continued investigating whether a private tree bylaw could incentivize redeveloping properties to maintain existing trees where appropriate. Maintaining and growing both our public and private tree canopy is critical to the overall health and ecological integrity of our city. I look forward to following this work to see how we can further preserve and protect trees in our mature neighbourhoods, and how we can reach our City Plan tree planting goal.
Notably, during the budget, Council funded $67 million in new tree planting programs, which will help move us closer to that goal.
And so much more...
Council committees are where we can dig into issues and hear from Edmontonians directly. I appreciate all the leadership from my colleagues, the thoughtful contributions from Edmontonians and community organizations, and the expertise from City staff.
As a new councillor, this is the committee I just couldn’t wait to serve on. These are discussions that will influence how Edmonton grows as a more affordable, convenient, equitable and climate-resilient city for generations to come.
I am looking forward to serving on Executive Committee over the coming months, and will be following the work of Urban Planning Committee closely as this exciting work continues.