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Corbella: The Calgary City Council destroyed our downtown area and blamed others for its mess

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One of the main reasons why Calgarians who don’t work downtown are more likely to avoid this than if it were Gotham City is the high cost of parking

Author of the article:

Licia Corbella

Release date:

March 11, 2021 • • 9 hours ago • • Read for 5 minutes • • 86 comments A nearly empty Barclay Center Parkade and quiet 6th Avenue can be seen in downtown Calgary on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young / Postmedia

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The mayor and council members have recently been angry that the provincial government hasn’t sent enough money to deal with Calgary’s eroded downtown area. Successive councilors have helped destroy our inner city and now they want others to pay the price.

To quote the signs often seen in gift shops: “If you break it, you buy it”.

The only problem is that city council decisions – many of which are controversial – have made repairing our downtown area near impossible, and everyone in Calgary is paying for decades of bad decisions.

One of the main reasons why Calgarians who don’t work downtown are more likely to avoid this than if it were Gotham City is the high cost of parking. Parking has to be expensive enough to discourage daily commuters from bringing their cars, but cheap enough for a day-tripper to visit on the spur of the moment. There are very few impromptu visits to downtown Calgary.

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On Tuesday I drove to downtown Calgary, which would normally have been the end of the morning rush hour. The streets were almost empty of cars and the sidewalks were deserted, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where most commuters work from home.

It was 9 a.m. and I had an appointment with Joanna McLeod at 9:30 a.m. at her iconic breakfast spot, the 1886 Buffalo Cafe in Eau Claire, to interview her about the nefarious way City Hall treats this family, the has done so much to preserve Calgary’s history while at the same time nurturing them.

In time to kill, I pulled into a parking lot on 6th Avenue and 4th Street SW. It’s a parking lot that I visited before the pandemic when I was hanging out with people for breakfast or lunch downtown.

I was curious to know if parking fees have now fallen because our city center is even emptier than it was before COVID. This normally almost full parkade was almost empty, but that’s what they charge to park there: $ 37 until 6pm, $ 7 for 30 minutes, $ 14 for an hour, $ 20 for an hour and 30 minutes , $ 28 for two hours and $ 35 for two hours and 30 minutes.

And Mayor Naheed Nenshi, with his reserved, free, heated underground car park in the town hall, wonders why Calgarians don’t want to come downtown for something to eat?

An almost empty Bow Parkade can be seen in downtown Calgary on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. An almost empty Bow Parkade can be seen in downtown Calgary on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young / Postmedia

I remember parked on this parkade before the pandemic and went to lunch and when I got back to my car the person writing tickets was standing with the pen in position behind my vehicle.

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“I have five minutes left,” I declared triumphantly.

“Actually, you have about a minute and 30 seconds,” he replied.

“So were you ready to rush if I was seconds late?” I asked.

“That’s my job,” he replied.

Instead of this parking lot hiring a parking attendant – so their customers only have to pay for the amount of parking they actually use instead of guessing how much they need – they hire someone to write you a $ 60 ticket, if you’re seconds late after paying $ 20 for an hour and a half. I feel my blood pressure rise when I think about it.

The city council should pass a statute compelling all downtown parking spaces to either hire an employee to bill you for the time charged for your use or to install meters to which you can add additional payments from your smartphone, such as the city’s ParkPlus technology.

But don’t blame the owner of this private parking garage for this behavior. Blame the city council.

For decades, city councils have forced every new building in the city center to construct very few underground parking spaces. The builders have to pay some kind of tax to the city and the city then builds parking spaces in a different location where nobody really wants to park.

Calgary has been cold for more than half a year and our downtown area is often incredibly windy and dark due to our narrow streets and tall buildings. At -30 ° C, visitors want to park as close as possible to their destination. You don’t want to park a 15-minute walk away.

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As a result, even when offered a large meal downtown, Calgarians often suggest somewhere outside of the core that has free parking.

A quiet 4th Avenue in downtown Calgary can be seen on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. A quiet 4th Avenue in downtown Calgary can be seen on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young / Postmedia

City councils are rightly concerned about the announced closure of the YMCA downtown, which is a huge loss to downtown residents and hopefully can be saved. I parked in Eau Claire’s parking lot that the people using this fitness facility would use. It cost me $ 14 for two hours, and that’s cheaper than before COVID.

In 2015, the same councilors voted to build a tower in the East Village with 167 condominiums and no parking space for renters or visitors – the first of its kind in Canada. Of course, this concept has not caught on in much more pedestrian-friendly cities such as Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto. They approved this before there was a grocery store within walking distance of the area.

Now the council is playing with the prospect of converting Calgary office towers into apartment buildings, none of which have balconies and nowhere near enough underground parking spaces. You have created your own trap. They built what urban guru Richard White calls “a high-rise office park”.

On March 1, the city council unanimously endorsed a plan to spend $ 43 million in reserve funds to cap tax increases and help businesses hit by the pandemic.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who is running for mayor, initially filed a motion to spend $ 44 million to ensure there are no tax increases for a Calgary company that has been approved by the council’s finance committee.

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However, this plan was amended by a change from Coun. Jeff Davison. Davison said too many companies that benefited while others suffered would benefit.

As a result of Davison’s interference, only reserve funds of $ 13 million were used to keep taxes on non-residential property at a limit 10 percent higher than last year!

The Calgary City Council raised taxes for the contested Calgary businesses off-core by 10 percent and they see this as a great victory and an example of their compassion and fiscal caution. If this were written in a book of fiction, the readers would be in disbelief.

Licia Corbella is a post-media columnist based in Calgary.

lcorbella@postmedia.com

Twitter: @LiciaCorbella

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