It has come to our attention that some in our community have received in the mail a brochure (depicted below) from an organization named Homes for Heroes Foundation (H4H). The brochure invited those who received it to an Open House scheduled for April 17, 2018 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM at Villa Firenze. (We attended this last night and very few residents were there. We expressed that this is not authentic engagement due to far location from the site, mail drop only to a few residents who do not live near the site).
This document has been written because your community association, BRCA, has been extensively involved in considering the merits and demerits of this H4H initiative in our community, and BRCA believes it is important to offer missing information to those who might have attended and to inform the community of this upcoming development permit. This use has been applied for but has not be decided – since it is a land use change there will be a public hearing at Council and it is imperative you are informed and able to send your views to the City.
BRCA first became aware of the H4H initiative in 2017 shortly before last year’s municipal election, and there were two key meetings in the fall. One occurred at the Mayor’s office and was attended by, among others, representatives of the Mayor’s Office, Calgary Affordable Housing, and Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra. Another meeting, somewhat later, was attended by BRCA representatives and H4H. Among other things the latter meeting involved discussion of the former.
Both meetings were similar in that both principally involved detailed consideration of the reasons why the proposed location for the H4H initiative within the Bridgeland-Riverside community does not make sense for a variety of reasons, in particular planning initiatives already underway in the community, and related City objectives, and also concerns about social problems and social isolation in the specific location of the proposed initiative. BRCA had understood, especially after the meeting with H4H itself, that H4H did not intend to pursue its initiative within the Bridgeland-Riverside community after all, because of the concerns that had been expressed by BRCA and Ward 9. Subsequently it was publicly announced that H4H (which has never yet built a project on any site) had secured a piece of land from the City in Forest Lawn on which to build an inaugural project which we had assumed was resolution to the situation. (An alternative site had also been identified within the Inglewood community boundaries, but H4H apparently rejected it). To be blunt: BRCA was taken totally by surprise when an application for a land use change appeared on the calgary.ca/pdmap and the flyer depicted below appeared in some residents’ mailboxes. None of this was what we had been told would be the H4H approach; indeed, we had been told the opposite.
Click below to read more, watch a video clip, learn about the issue and what you can do.
Studies done by Sustainable Calgary and University of Calgary Planning Students in 2014/15 highlighted the isolation perceived by many of the predominantly low-income, older-adult residents who live in East Riverside. Modern urban planning practices show that mixed-use, diverse environments create safer, more sustainable communities and it was with this perspective that BRCA, along with government and social agency stakeholders, embarked on the East Riverside project. Project investigations concluded that this East Riverside area can be diversified with market housing developments and be re-imagined to include different age groups and users. Over time the area can benefit from the amenities associated with such redevelopment such as retail use and improvements to greenspace, streets, sidewalks, etc. Funds to improve the public realm have to come from somewhere. Non-profits and government-subsidized housing institutions do not have the money to improve liveability and safety for the existing residents beyond the walls of their facilities. There was broad support for the East Riverside vision of the future. The East Riverside Master Plan was finalized and although not directly adopted by Council as a statutory plan, has among other things resulted in the work now ongoing to establish an updated Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) for Bridgeland-Riverside (which would then be a statutory plan).
The proposal by ‘Homes for Heroes’ to build a village of tiny homes on City-owned land, presently under lease to CNIB, in the isolated, southeast corner of our community, arose after all of this work was done. No doubt the housing goals of H4H, and especially its vulnerable client population of veterans experiencing homelessness, deserve every consideration; however, in this particular location (already the biggest concentration of affordable housing in Calgary), this 20-year plan for construction of extremely low-density housing will do nothing to address goals of the East Riverside Master Plan project (improved safety, reduced isolation, added amenities, etc.). The City’s consideration of this proposal (left hand versus the right hand) flies in the face of the goals of the City’s own Municipal Plan and the City’s own and City-initiated East Riverside Master Plan, just recently completed.
To further complicate matters in the East Riverside area, over a year ago, the Province announced $130 million in funding for a Complex Care Facility located at the former Crossbow site on Centre Ave at 10 Street NE (some of you may know this location as the site for the filming of the “Fargo police station”). Unfortunately, and despite being invited to the table during the East Riverside Master Plan process, Alberta Health Services did not ultimately have its decision makers engaged in that process. As a result, recently, AHS has come forward initially proposing a building on that key site that fails to take advantage of the planning opportunities of the East Riverside Master Plan.
Considering this recent AHS development toward the northwest corner of the East Riverside area, and now the H4H site at the other southeast corner of East Riverside, BRCA is very concerned that two levels of government are now is missing the opportunity to take leadership steps toward realizing their professed goals in East Riverside as a whole.
DATA AND KEY POINTS
1. Poor Urban Planning
- Research indicates that to have a complete community you need a diversity of age ranges, income levels, and housing types.
- Small bungalows to house 20 people in a transit-oriented area that has new master planning to house hundreds of families is poor planning both generally and then specifically under the Municipal Plan.
- Calgary’s Municipal Plan suggests that Bridgeland-Riverside should be doubling its population as a goal. This means that a purposeful decision NOT to add density in this location where it has been planned for and where makes good planning sense will add pressure everywhere else.
- Density supports local business, public realm improvements, and property taxes on new development fund the City. This project does not support density.
- 5 years of planning work and research by Sustainable Calgary and the University of Calgary EVDS program have identified this area as being key. This is what led to the East Riverside Master Plan.
- Locking this area into a 20-year lease with this use will prevent opportunities in the Master Plan from moving forward.
- All local stakeholders in the area were at the table in developing the East Riverside Master Plan, including the City. How or why would the City now undermine its own plans and objectives?
2. Poor use of high value land
- This land is a high value asset for both the City of Calgary and CNIB. Its value should be maximized for the best return for both.
- Density opportunities in this particular corner of East Riverside are especially evident. Building “up” in this location would not block westerly views as seen from the east (Tom Campbell’s Hill & Memorial Drive), the location is adjacent to Memorial Drive as a major roadway, and it is walking distance to the LRT.
3. Process and Transparency
There are various additional concerns that arise specific to the H4H approach as it is been witnessed to date:
- BRCA was specifically advised by H4H last year that H4H had no wish to locate its project except in a community that would be welcoming of it. H4H has backtracked from that position and ignored the engagement feedback to date.
- H4H has represented that it has secured a lease or contractual position with CNIB and the City for this project. All of BRCA’s inquiries have been met with information suggesting this is untrue.
- H4H has not informed all residents of Bridgeland-Riverside about this Open House. The invitation seems to have been mailed only to some; BRCA has confirmed that many of its participants did not receive it. Most people who live nearest to the site did not, in fact, receive it.
- H4H did not inform BRCA directly about this Open House at all.
- Contrary to its usual practices, the City of Calgary has not communicated clearly with BRCA about this planning file.
- Open Houses are typically scheduled once planning matters have been officially disclosed (e.g. with notice to BRCA and other “affected persons”), and in consultation with the City. Why is this peculiar marketing approach occurring in this case?
- There is a huge list of charities who would have interest in this location. Why were these lands not publicly tendered to all charities if that was deemed the appropriate direction?
- H4H has offered no response to all of the information sent its direction about our community. Why does H4H continue to believe that this project make sense in this location, despite a chorus of concern? Why favour one small group over other similarly situated people in this way?
- H4H recently was awarded land through the City's affordable housing initiative in Forest Lawn. It therefore already has secured a location to test its model (which has not been done before). Why H4H is looking for an additional site in the Bridgeland-Riverside community at this time is confusing.
- The hosting of an Open House at Villa Firenze, almost as far as possible from the site in question within the community, is perplexing.
- No advertising has been done on the site to date to let adjacent residents know about this idea.
4. Social needs
- Demographically, East Riverside is almost entirely populated by vulnerable citizens in social housing or seniors; accommodation homes, typified by low incomes. Riverside in general has over 1500 affordable housing units—the most in the city of Calgary. The needs of these existing residents should supersede the needs of a small similarly-situated H4H group of 20 people.
- Vulnerable people already housed in this area have provided feedback to government reporting feelings of isolation, concern for safety, and issues with lack of amenities and poor infrastructure. Adding more vulnerable people is not supportive of the needs of either existing residents or those H4H aims to help.
- The East Riverside Master Plan, created by all stakeholders active in the area, identified a strong need to diversification this area.
- The roots of dysfunction in East Riverside are inherent in the concentration of government owned land dedicated entirely to social needs (warehousing). It is not considered a best practice to concentrate needs homogeneously this way.
- There are high social disorder, encampments, crime and drug issues in this area now.
- Forthcoming population increases include the AHS facility with 200 complex care beds, plus 200+ more affordable housing units through Bishop O’Byrne and the Resolve Campaign.
- Riverside has the highest concentration of affordable housing in the City with over 1500 units plus a high concentration of other vulnerable social organizations – e.g. Rehab Society, Children’s Cottage, various shelters, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, Women’s Centre.
- The proposed H4H use does not mesh with the daycare use currently in place at CNIB – over 150 children attend that daycare.
The BRCA worked extensively on the East Riverside Master Plan to advance the best future for this area. You can view the plan at calgary.ca/Bridgeland.
Watch Gian-Carlo Carra talk about this issue on YouTube here:
Please share this information and talk about it with your neighbours!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Communicate your concerns to the following:
City of Calgary File Manager, Melanie Horkan email@example.com (reference LOC2018-0049) – please copy us as well firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra at email@example.com
If you have further questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org