Some Thoughts From The Ideas Fair

I just came back from the Ideas Fair the city put on at Conexus Arts Centre. It was the big public consultation night where all the Citizen Circles who are participating in the Official Community Plan renewal process showed off what they’d been discussing.

And I wasn’t just there as a reporter. I was also supposed to be running the prairie dog’s Citizen Circle booth and talking about that episode of the podcast where we beaked off about the city and called that our contribution to the consultation process. Anyway, I spent so much of the night wandering about, interviewing other tables that I missed all the talks and mostly neglected my duties as a Citizen Circle representative.

I did come away with a few thoughts though….

– Man, we were lazy bastards. There were groups there who met weekly for months to put together their Design Regina submissions. And they had slick booths with pictures and dioramas and rick shaws (seriously, frickin’ rick shaws) and videos and stuff. I was just handing out cds with mp3s of our podcast on it. Such slackers.

– I spoke to a lot of people and it was amazing how pretty much everyone at this event seemed to be on the same page: More emphasis on density, build more affordable housing, make the city walkable, preserve our architectural heritage, encourage mixed use development, support a vibrant cultural scene and get better public transit. Actually, better transit was a priority almost everywhere. City hall better be listening because people (the ones who bother to get involved in the political process, anyway) are pretty much unanimous in what they want out of their city.

– There were a lot of city staffers in attendance making the rounds of the tables. That was a very encouraging thing to see.

– I’m 90-something per cent sure only one councillor showed up: Mike O’Donnell. Have to say, he’s a top notch city politician.

– A lot of people came over to say how much they enjoy reading prairie dog. That was really nice to hear.

– I walked both ways to the event. Managed to get from my home in Cathedral to the Conexus Centre in about half an hour. That is so not that far. Also, Wascana Park at night in the fall is fucking gorgeous.

– Ended the night in the Fainting Goat and that is where I started writing this post. The sazerac = 1 delicious cocktail.

That’s it for now. I’ll be writing something more formal up for the next issue of the paper (which comes out next Thursday). And I’m sure we’ll be discussing the Ideas Fair in the next podcast.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

13 thoughts on “Some Thoughts From The Ideas Fair”

  1. More density, people living downtown instead of just working there, improved transportation, etc. are all good in my books. However, if I want to build a house in the city, there are very limited options in downtown or its surrounding areas. Hence the need to build in Harbour Landing, the Creeks, and even out to White City/Emerald Park etc. This contributes to urban sprawl, which if I’ve learnt anything from PD, Arcade Fire, or Tom Hanks, is evil. What’s the solution to this?

  2. Did you watch the HL loop on the tele?

    Someone thinks that developing HL bigger than Hillsdale and Whitmore Park combined, is a good thing. Fools.

  3. #3 y/n did you see the loop?

    Lewvan does not have enough lanes to support that amount of traffic.
    No dedicated right turn lane(s), onto Gordon, or straight into WM parking lot, even tho’ the city knew that’s where sheeple are driving to, from the get go of the street rebuild project.

    No Consience thinking of anything Solar Powered on any roof in any of that “design” either.

    green money, not green thinking

    Now they are called “Row-Homes” as opposed to “Town-Homes”, think Castle Rd. in Regina,it’s my only example.

    The people that live more than 1/2 km from WM.. will drive

  4. I actually think the number of roads into HL is more than adequate, more lanes than most areas in our city.

    Any other responses to my first q, or is it standard to point out an issue without having any possible solutions.

  5. Oh Anon. I think what you meant to type was Demand>supply in housing. That’s why prices are skyrocketing and the vacancy rate is essentially zero.

    And that means that suppliers, ie. developers and landlords, hold all the cards in the housing market.

    As a result, housing is one of the most constrained products buyers are faced with. In other words, your range of choices is extremely limited and what you do get to choose from is determined by what is convenient and most profitable for developers.

    You may think Harbour Landing and neighbourhoods like it exist because that’s what people want. But the truth is people buy houses in neighbourhoods like it because that’s the best developers have had to offer for the last 30 years. (I’ve said this before… I totally understand why people buy homes in suburbs. From an economic standpoint, it presently is your best option.)

    And the reason for that is because we have a cockeyed system that rewards new build on the edge of the city but punishes and restricts infill. And our development fees don’t cover the true cost of building and maintaining new infrastructure.

    The $130 billion (and growing) infrastructure deficit facing municipalities in Canada is the bill for decades of suburban sprawl.

    The thing is, we are about to face an epochal shift in our economy and housing is going to have to change along with it.

    To quote Councillor O’Donnell, “Density is coming.” And it’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by many others on our council.

    We have to build more compact urban forms if we want our cities to continue to be great places to live.

    Oh, and seeing as you’ve demanded that along with any criticism of a problem we must also supply a solution, here’s one:

    Change up the zoning laws to allow for secondary suites and carriage houses.

    In a lot of our older neighbourhoods with back alleys, and in some of the new ones that are being built with neo-traditional zoning, we have this shadow road network in the form of our back alley system.

    If people were encouraged to build suites over top of garages or even out-buildings that have alley access and could be used as housing, we could dramatically increase the density in those neighbourhoods.

    In cities that have done this it’s been a huge success. And it’s something that was talked about during the consultation for the Heritage Neighbourhood Sustainability Plan (or whatever it’s called). Unfortunately, that discussion doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere.

  6. Thanks for the response. I agree people buy and build where the developers tell them, but at the same time I think there may be an underestimation/misunderstanding of people’s demands. There are a lot of people who want mid to large houses with a yard etc. (for a variety of reasons = family, personal preference, income level etc.). Currently, and even with some revisions in planning, I don’t see a lot of room, literally, for this in the heart of Regina. Sure, it can be a bit more dense, but overall people will continue to be pushed into the suburbs to meet their needs.

    Personally, I live currently in the burbs but would love to live closer to downtown. However, the price of houses downtown are borderline insane for the quality received (a comparable house in the burbs costs a lot less), and the cost to tear down and build are also unfeasible, unless a perfect scenario somehow flukes out. Thus, with my current needs (or wants, whatever), in the foreseeable future I cannot live downtown or surrounding areas.

  7. Fair enough, anon.

    My point is, though, that in the not too distant future, people are not going to have the option to get the house in the suburbs with the yard and the hefty square footage. Whether that’s what they like or not. Houses like that are currently underpriced for how much they cost the infrastructure system. And because we haven’t set aside funds to maintain the infrastructure we’ve built, we’re now stuck with a massive price tag to fix just what we have, let alone build more of it.

    Plus, all of that infrastructure was built back when energy and oil were comparatively cheap. We’re now faced with having to rebuild everything as oil prices have started an exorable climb.

    And this isn’t something we can solve by switching to alternatives to fossil fuels. You can’t make asphalt out of sun beams.

  8. You’ve forgotten about hover cars.

    I think this move to denser populations is happening, but not for Regina anytime soon. The infrastructure deficit is definitely an issue, but I doubt any politician will include in their platform strong enough initiatives that will force (and they will have to force, not motivate) people inward and out of their suburban dwellings.

  9. Looking forward to your reportage on the Ideas Fair, especially as Regina Urban Ecology’s first report has neen, frankly, disappointing.

  10. Hey Barb – I’d love to talk more about your thoughts and get some feedback.

    Right now RUE is very understaffed (and by understaffed I mean 50% of our 2 person operation is out of the province and super-busy with school, while the other 50% is doing a bang-up job while working). I know what we were able to pull together wasn’t perfect, but I would like to publicly commend Martin for all of his work on it.

    We’ve put the call out to invite people to join the RUE network several times, we’d love more people to write guest posts, and join in on discussions, etc. but few have really jumped up to take us up on it.

    All of this said, I don’t want to make excuses – just provide some context. I really would like to hear your thoughts (here, on the RUE site, or via email: regina.urbanecology@gmail.com)

    Cheers,
    -Laura

  11. Ok, I want to follow-up by saying that I just read Martin’s report (as I said, things here are busy and I’m sometimes a step behind)… :)

    I think what Martin has presented is an accurate reflection of his experience, and I think that is valid to share. Who knows, it may be an indication of how others felt during the process as well – what worked well, what things were frustrating, seemed ill-conceived, or had interesting results and outcomes.

    Again, I’m down for discussing this further (and something tells me it won’t be our last post on the Design Regina process), but I think it is valid to share a personal perspective of the last two days.

    lp

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