Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Secondary suite successes: programs boost number of legal suites

It’s a sweet time to build a secondary suite – or at least, that’s what 383 families decided after The City of Calgary introduced a development permit exemption for basement suites and an online suite registry in September 2015.

That’s over 400 per cent more secondary suite applications than The City received previously on a monthly basis.

“It’s a faster, cheaper and easier process to build a basement suite in areas where they’re already permitted; you can go straight to the building permit phase,” says City of Calgary Senior Special Projects Officer Cliff de Jong. “Because of that and the introduction of the registry, we’re seeing more Calgarians than ever before build a new suite or make their existing suite safe and legal.”

Applicants can skip the development permit process entirely if they meet the rules of the Land Use Bylaw, saving up to $2,000 in application costs, which includes commissioning architectural drawings. In some instances, you may still require a land use redesignation or development permit; in which case, the fees for both are currently waived. The exemption is a pilot project that could end in March 2017, but is up for discussion at City Council on Jan. 16.

“I think as a homeowner, it’s easy to say, ‘I can get this basement development permitted in a day, but a secondary suite development takes three months,’” says Calgary secondary suite owner Sean Hayes. “Now, with the development permit exemption, you may be able to get that secondary suite development in a day or two as well.”

The launch of both secondary suite programs has helped to create conversations between The City and citizens in person and on social media, says de Jong.

“We’ve been talking to people on a number of platforms and getting a lot of positive feedback about the online registry and development permit exemption,” says de Jong. “We know the process can be confusing; sometimes people are misinformed about what it takes to build a legal and safe suite. Social media is an easy way to direct them to the correct information and for us to be a part of the online conversation.”

Calgary basement suite owner Kim Ketchum says that in particular, the online secondary suite registry has helped her talk to her neighbours about secondary suites.

“The registry is important for the community,” Ketchum says. “I think it’s really important that the image of secondary suites is enhanced within the city. I think the registry can help do this, because my next door neighbour, somebody down the street or two blocks over can go to the website, pop in my address and see whether or not the suite is legal. When they see that it is registered, then that can help change perceptions around secondary suites and people will know all of Alberta’s safety code requirements have been met.”

To learn more about renting or building a secondary suite, visit

Friday, January 6, 2017

Calgary AfterSchool has a variety of free programs to keep kids active, creative and social

With our shorter days and freezing temperatures, it's not uncommon for the winter blues to set in. It can be a challenge to keep your child or teen active and engaged as they settle back into the school grind.

A great cure for the winter blues is to help children and youth find new and stimulating activities to keep them active, creative and sociable. An easy remedy is to have kids or teens drop into one of The City of Calgary’s free, safe and fun after school programs.

We have a variety of programs to get kids and youth thinking, creating, moving and socializing. Our unique programming is designed to help children and youth do better in school, stay productive, learn new skills and make new friends.

Best of all, parents will never hear the words, “I’m bored” again.

Held after school hours on school days, there are dozens of locations across the city.

Give Calgary AfterSchool a try. Visit to find a program that’s right for you.

Submitted by Eric Michalko, Calgary Neighbourhoods

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What to do when snowfall turns into windrows

Since snow stopped falling on December 25, crews have completed maintenance on Priority One and Two routes, which include major roads like Crowchild Trail and most bus routes. Crews continue working in accordance with The City’s Seven Day Snow Plan, which means plows are now in residential areas and playground zones.

On residential roads, you may see vehicles “flat-blading”, which means turning the blade under a sander downward to flatten the snow to a hard pack, so it is easier to drive on. Sometimes, this results in windrows, which many Calgarians have questions about.

What is a windrow?

According to The City’s Snow and Ice Control Policy, crews are mandated to maintain the driving lane on residential streets to a safe, reasonable winter driving condition. Crews do this by “flat-blading,” turning the blade under a sander downward to flatten the snow to a hard pack so it is easier to drive on. Flat-blading causes a continuous a build-up of snow along the side of a roadway, also known a windrow.

While this is good for motorists, the snow left over after crews have flat-bladed can create some extra work for property owners.

There is a windrow in front of my driveway. Who is responsible for clearing it?

The clearing of windrows in front of driveways left by snow plowing equipment is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, much like sidewalk shovelling. Plow operators make every attempt to keep driveways clear or keep windrows as small as possible, but any spillage that does occur is the responsibility of the property owner.

What does The City do about windrows?

City forces do their best to keep windrows small by evenly distributing the snow on either side of the road, however, after heavy snowfalls windrows can build up. Under extreme circumstances, if a windrow is impeding a resident’s ability to enter their driveway, a crew can come by and assess the windrow and remove if required.

Citizens should contact 311 if they have concerns about a windrow.

Visit for more information on how The City clears snow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A look into the transformation of The City's Historic 8 Street S.W. underpass

The 8th Street underpass opened fully to the public today. We sat down with Ben Barrington, Centre City Implementation Program Manager, to learn about what citizens can expect from this important infrastructure investment.

Q: How does the new underpass increase pedestrian safety?

We've approached safety from a number of angles which we think citizens and local businesses will appreciate. Complementing new security cameras and call boxes, are design features that include improved lighting, new sidewalks, new stairs and an interactive art installation. These elements contribute to a safer, more enjoyable, experience. Our approach has transformed, what some folks previously thought, were just poorly lit "sidewalks" into a place that is that feels much bigger,  brighter, and more welcoming and  interesting, which  substantially enhances safety.

Q: How many people use this particular underpass?

Situated along the 8 Street S.W. Corridor, this underpass is one of the most used by Calgarians, averaging around 9000 pedestrians a day.

Q: What will be displayed on the public art installation?

Panels along the sides of the s-curve installation will scroll across the snippets and fragments of Calgary's past;  bits of old advertising, classified  ads from 100 years ago, personal  reminiscences on details of daily life. The installation will help present-day Calgarians understand a snapshot of the history of the underpasses and the role of the railway in shaping our city. As they enter the underpass it's as if they are experiencing the past.

 An interesting aspect of this artwork is that pedestrians will have opportunity to interact with the scrolling texts using their smartphones. This feature won’t be functional until late January. By sending keywords to the controlling computer, passers-by can influence the content of the script by finding story from the data base. For example, sending the keyword "oyster" might dig up advertising copy for fresh oysters that were regularly brought to Calgary daily by rail in the 1910s.

Q: Will other underpasses be getting similar treatment?

Yes, in Centre City we've been investing in our Corridor program, and underpass improvements are the first phase of these improvements. This is the third underpass improvement project, having recently completed 5 Street S.W. and 1 Street S.W.,  and in 2017 will start construction on the 4 Street S.W. underpass. Planning for the remaining underpasses will start in the next two years.

For more information, visit

Monday, December 12, 2016

City services respond to the needs of vulnerable Calgarians during cold weather

As Calgary continues to experience a deep freeze, we are working with partner agencies in Alberta Health Services and across Calgary to make sure our more vulnerable citizens have options to stay safe.

Thankfully, the Government of Alberta has informed us that shelter beds are available in Calgary for those who would like to come in from the cold at night. As well, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has an emergency plan in place if shelters become overwhelmed. They also work with shelter and other agency partners to help ensure the needs of the homeless are met during the cold months.

Our Community Standards Partner Agency Liaison (PAL) Team has been busy this week, along with the Calgary Police Service and the Downtown Outreach Addictions Program (DOAP) , visiting locations where homeless Calgarians have been known to sleep. These teams check up on people who may need help during the cold weather and to pass out items such as warm socks and other clothing items, and bagged lunches provided by The Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SORCe).

This is a time of year when we all need to watch out for one another. If citizens see a person in distress or who is unresponsive, they should call 9-1-1 immediately. If you see a person who needs help, call 311. Here are a few tips for anyone trying to help out a homeless person, or person who is struggling in this frigid climate:
  • The person you are helping may have special needs such as a mobility or emotional wellness issue, so be sure to take this into consideration before acting.
  • Always keep the person informed of what you are doing and ask for their agreement before taking any action.
  • If the person does not agree to the help you are offering, call 311 or 911, depending on the urgency of the situation, to ask for help and guidance.