Zoning Bylaw Update at Urban Planning Committee

Below are our speaking notes for the Zoning Bylaw Update at Urban Planning Committee in June of 2023. This was one of the last check-points for the Bylaw with Committee prior to heading to final approval by City Council.

Good afternoon, my name is Jason Wang and I work as a climate change professional and have a background in complex systems analysis and modelling. But I’m speaking on behalf of Paths for People, where I volunteer. Paths for People is a non-profit based in Edmonton that focuses on safer, more liveable streets. Our focus on making active transportation more accessible to more Edmontonians depends on making big changes in how we build Edmonton.

We will need to build a denser city, where neighbourhoods have more amenities and businesses closer to home. It’s a city where there are more housing options all over the city. This is a city where it is easier to get to places, because the things that matter are closer to where we live. It’s the kind of city that already exists all over the world too – a city that people want to move to and live in .

Renewing our zoning bylaw is a way to achieve this goal over the coming decades. Making changes to how we regulate land will literally take years to implement. This change will be incremental. But, it’s important to set this change in motion. We have built a very sprawling city, where it can be difficult to get to work, community amenities, and more, because everything is so far and away and segmented. Renewing the zoning bylaw means that we can make it easier to build things that matter closer to home, like a coffee shop that my parents can walk to.

Additionally, it’s important to stress just how long we have been talking about these big changes. Engagement on the City Plan, which set the vision for a more sustainable, denser city took years and saw thousands of Edmontonians contribute to this positive vision. We were very well-involved with that process and pleased with how much time and effort the City put in to it.

Over the past many years, we have also been engaged with the Zoning Bylaw Renewal project. We are eager to see the opportunity to implement the strong vision set within the City Plan to begin to get implemented all across our City via renewing the Zoning Bylaw. We were thankful that the admin extended this most recent period of engagement too. We see engagement with the renewal project has shaped the changes presented today. We were involved directly in engagement on bike parking standards, which we are excited to see improvements. We also got broadly engaged on the several rounds of feedback the City provided and shared these engagement opportunities with our 1,700 members across Edmonton.

A reasonable amount of engagement allows for discussion, makes a decision, and moves forward. But what’s really important to stress is that once the Zoning Bylaw gets renewed, the community conversation is NOT over. We expect the City to track the implementation of these changes and adjust over time, especially as the District Planning process proceeds. We will continue engaging with this process to continue moving the city-building conversation forward.

Edmonton is a city that has taken massive steps forwards when it comes to land use regulation in the past. We removed some parking regulations to ensure that the City isn’t mandating the overproduction of vehicle parking all across Edmonton. We made it easier to build secondary suites to support more affordable rental accommodations and aging-in-place. We can continue to be this bold city, by moving forward with the Zoning Bylaw renewal and carrying on this conversation.

And, to end on a personal note, I completed my graduate studies in the Netherlands, which is also trying to attract young professionals from across the world. One of the key reasons I chose to move back to Edmonton was the leadership we have shown in building a better city with the City Plan and Zoning Bylaw renewal. Edmonton stood out as a promising city, where the density and zoning vision in both these initiatives will help to tackle climate change, protect the environment, and build stronger communities. I’m excited to have seen all the discussion and appreciate that much opposition is not coming from just a NIMBY place, but we also need to strike the right balance of engagement, recognizing that the conversation about city-building will continue even after we get the chance to renew the Bylaw.