The Community Speaks

Below are a number of letters from concerned residents of North Garneau and the surrounding area. You will find that largely, they are balanced and illustrate well the level of understanding that they have of the complexities of the issues facing development in their sector. In the original formation the Long Range Development Plan the communities were not consulted. This is very unfortunate as there is a wealth of experience and ideas available to the University which they chose to forgo at the outset. We can only hope that they will realize the asset they have in the resource of the neighboring communities.


To the LRDP Committee:

Over the last several years my wife and I have attended and quietly participated in the consultation sessions and open houses hosted by your LRDP committee. With optimistic respect for the university's desire to expand, we have engaged in the dialogue with the intention of insuring that our (your neighbour in North Garneau) voice is heard. With each meeting we have expressed our opinion that the protection of our community's heritage be a viable option for the university. After the latest consultation session we now fear the very worst for our neighbourhood, and we would like to take this time to express our concerns and offer our perspective on the future of Sector 8.

We moved to Edmonton six years ago when my wife accepted a tenure track position in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, and I sought out a position with the Edmonton Public School Board. We have two young children, one of whom is in a University daycare and the other attends grade one at Windsor Park School. I am an Assistant Principal at a local Junior High. We play on university run intramural sport teams, take music lessons from a university member, and have a number of Faculty members living next door to us, as well as across the street. My wife and children ride their bikes to Windsor Park School through the university daily six months of the year. We thrive on the community surrounding the University, which offers a wonderful environment to raise our children and the amenity of my wife being close to her place of employment.

Having spent twelve years working for the federal government in Kingston, Ontario while my wife worked on her M.A/PhD. at Queen's University, we were very reluctant to move to Edmonton. Like many young families who move to Edmonton (we've met dozens through the daycares), community and accessibility to work rank very high in our priority of needs. When it came down to decision time it was the intangibles that persuaded us that it would all work out: the river valley, good schooling, the architectural comfort zone that buffers the University and the sense of stability conveyed by large elms, wide streets and seclusion of the local neighbourhoods.

Five years later and an explosion of construction have changed much of that. At each corner of the university there are cranes, detours and proposals for further construction. Much like Queen's University, the U of A seems committed to be a premier post-secondary educational institution both within the province, and the country; however, unlike Queen's, the U of A is growing at a pace that fits the old adage of the west - "boom and bust". Let me remind your committee that the City's historical foundation is important.

Julian Martin's response to both the Heritage Assessment Report and the February 4 Open House suggested that the homes in North Garneau were of no value because they did not house nationally important people. Let me suggest that it is not just about the individual legacy of the person; it is about the perception of history the neighbourhood evokes. It matters little to the younger members of your university whether the occupants were famous. What matters is the collective connection your university has to its community and its history. To put this another way, does the U of A have historical significance within the broader community, or is its relevance based only on continued expansion? Maintaining the health and status of these homes reassures many that the University is connected to and supported by its broader community.

If you remove streets like 111 St., build more large-scale parking lots, and create a population density that competes with Hong Kong, than the users of your facility will become disillusioned, frustrated and resentful of the congestion being imposed on this neighbourhood. It is not just about us, it is about all of your surrounding users: students, parents visiting their children, visiting scholars and the talented young people you recruit to employ in what is billed as the academic research centre of Western Canada. It is not all about dollars and cents; it is about the survival of a vibrant community.

Finally, I am fully aware of the standards of integrity that my wife as a professor at the university must meet, both as a researcher and a teacher. Thus, we compel your committee to also subject itself to such standards of integrity by meaningfully respecting the comments offered by the community surrounding the University. Through past consultation processes, while the public perception conveyed by the University is one in which a meaningful dialogue has occurred between the LRDP committee and the surrounding stakeholders, we feel that this has been very misleading as the University has not incorporated the concerns expressed by these groups in any discernible way. Please work to ensure that the consultation process moves beyond rhetoric.

Respectfully,

James Cottrell
Assistant Principal
Ritchie Junior High
9750-74 Avenue

Dr. Lisa McDermott
Assistant Professor
Faculty of PE and Recreation
University of Alberta


From: Robert Burch
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 9:35 AM
To: emily rowan [emily.rowan@ualberta.ca]
Subject: Letter

Dear Ms. Rowan,

In response to the request for feedback on the February 4, 2004 Open House on the University development in sectors # 7 & 8, permit me to remark on the following five general issues.

First, the presentation at the Open House was, so to speak, content challenged. Professor Martin did review some of the issues and guidelines that go into the planning process (e.g., having to do with sets-backs, green-space percentages, signage, memorable sites, etc.), which was useful to know. But there was virtually no information provided about actual development plans, and an obvious reluctance to talk about development in sector #8, or development on the existing 111 Street parking-lot. In short, the presentation was almost entirely about the "how" of the planning process, and not about what is actually being planned in the sectors of most interest to the proximate community. It was almost as if parts of the power-point presentation dealing with actual development plans had been deleted in order to forestall discussion of them. The characterization of the Open House as community "consultation" was thus a misnomer. Consultation, as the word itself implies, means that the parties "sit together" to deliberate an issue. In this regard, it is ironic that the community representative in your deliberations is not even from the Garneau community. Given the Universityıs penchant to talk at us in such forums, it is difficult not to be cynical about the claim that it is open to genuine consultation.

Second, it was clear from the presentation that the University has given virtually no thought to the concerns of the surrounding community. In particular, no University representative seemed to know about the serious traffic problems in the community, or even about the Garneau Community League's Planning and Traffic Committee, with whom one would have thought the University would have been in consultation. At one point, Professor Martin did remark on his own fears of having to cross 87th Ave at 110 Street, but gave no indication whatsoever of how the University's development plans would do anything but exacerbate that kind of problem. Also, no thought appears to have been given, for example, to the capacity of the surrounding community to accommodate the increase in population density, or to the changes in infrastructure that would be required in section #8 to sustain the projected numbers. From what little information was provided at the Open House, it seems that the planning thus far has been almost entirely myopic, focusing on what will be done within the University borders. Planning beyond that seems to have been directed almost entirely to strategic problems of "dealing with" the community as an impediment to University plans, rather than planning with a view to community-life overall. It takes no special wisdom to see that the impact of the University on the neighbourhood does not stop at the University's borders.

Third, it is also clear from its handling of the independent heritage assessment of sector # 8 that the University has no interest in preserving any of the houses in that sector other than those it cannot get away with tearing down (i.e., Rutherford House and Emily Murphy House). That it should have enlisted its own historians, including Professor Martin, to assess the assessment in order to dismiss it ought to be a source of embarrassment. In this regard, the University should simply say what it intends. It will be interesting to see whom it will try to enlist next in order to "legitimate" the demolition.

Fourth, what is perhaps most distressing is the seeming lack of creative thought that appears to have gone into the planning process. I appreciate the kinds of concerns that Professor Martin was raising at the Open House; but they were all of a technical nature. To frame it bluntly, in broad sweep the plan seems to be: more students? let's tear down houses and build boxes of varying heights to accommodate them; more students and staff from outside the area? let's build more parking garages for their cars; expand downtown or on the South Campus, instead? why bother when we can tear down the North Garneau property we already own, that has an existing (albeit aging) infrastructure, and where we are not constrained by City bylaws. From a University that is meant to be at the forefront of innovative thinking, one expects better. Surely, there are more intelligent responses to the issue of moving people on and off campus than simply building more parking garages. Surely, there is a more intelligent use of the North Garneau space than replicating the 88th Street box residence now under construction, ironically, the very sort of structure that VP Hickey had previously stated would not be acceptable!

Fifth, although this lies outside the designated purview of the planning committee, the insistent claim that the University has no option but to expand is one that ought not to go unchallenged. Admittedly, the reasons for expansion are numerous: it serves the financial interests of the University, needing to generate additional revenues in a climate of persistent under-funding; it serves the interests of the Provincial government in response to a perceived constituency demand for more places at university; it serves the research interests of high-profile, well-moneyed faculties and departments (which of course ought not to be ignored or belittled); and it serves the career advancement aspirations of senior University administrators. But there is no plausible argument to suggest that expanding the student population of the U of A to 55,000 (as has been projected) serves any reasonable pedagogical purpose. Nor is there any persuasive evidence to suggest that, beyond current enrolment figures, there will be in the foreseeable future an additional 20,000 potentially qualified students needing to be accommodated at the U of A. Indeed, one wonders what well-qualified potential undergraduate interested in a real education would want to enrol in a university of 55,000 students, if he or she had any other options. Given that the Provincial government is proceeding with its policy of according community colleges degree granting privileges, undergraduate enrolments at the U of A are likely not to rise, and may well drop as students find that they can be better provided for elsewhere.

Thank you for your attention,
Sincerely,

Robert Burch
North Garneau Resident


To whom it may concern

My name is Kevin Perrott and I am a recent addition to the North Garneau community having moved there a little over a year ago.  I also attend the University as an adult student.  The Open House was my first exposure to how the University deals with problems in its own back yard and I have to say I am disappointed.

I believe the LRDP to be flawed and in need of close inspection and revision in order to avoid future problems with the neighboring communities and to preserve the character of the East Campus. 

It is obvious to me now that the two parties, the U and those who wish to preserve in situ many of the homes in North Garneau, are at odds.  This is the natural outcome of a plan whose genesis originated in the abscence of input from the community stakeholders.  From what I have learned during my research, it is not unusual for the University to make plans without regard for the feelings of its neighbors.  This has been historically the way the University has approached the development of its lands.

Judging from the manner in which the participants of the Open House of Feb 4 were barked at by Julian Martin, and by the defensive posture that was exhibited by many of the the U's LRDP proponents, it seems that the U is less than comfortable with the manner it has conducted itself and is only going through the motions of community 'consulation' as something to be endured rather than used to improve a plan that they have invested so much time and effort into.

The fact remains, there are a good many ideas which the community has which would allow the University to realize its goals, and would also help preserve this community, but that would mean adjusting the LRDP more than the University is willing to compromise on, and thus we are being subjected to a "take it or leave it attitude".

This "take it or leave it" persona is obvious in the way the LRDP was formulated to begin with.  It is unfortunate that in all the "background research" that was done in coming up with the LRDP, ie. the far ranging surveys of other campuses across Canada, that there was such little attention given to the opinions or ideas of those most affected by the plans, the neighbors across the street.

Can you tell me whether or not any of the universities the U studied in coming up with the LRDP had similar challenges in dealing with communities and heritage preservation issues?  If so, were any of them successful and how did they come up with this success?  If they were unsuccessful what were the consequences and how would one avoid them?  Especially a concern is how traffic concerns will be handled.  Currently 110st is one way and without a doubt the pressure placed on 110 to become two way and handle the bulk of the traffic will be immense if 111th is closed to through traffic as proposed by the existing plan.  This will most certainly have a negative impact on  our home and property values although given that the University tried to expropriate them earlier and was unable, perhaps a 'devalue and conquer approach' might be seen as a method of recouping the possibility of gaining control of the area from 110 to 109 st.  What a horrible proposal that these thoughts might exist in the minds of the LRDP's proponents... I certainly hope I am wrong.  Time will tell what legacy the University leaves to the future.

Thus far, it is obvious that the University has little desire or requirement to take the thoughts, opinions, or ideas of the other stakeholders into consideration in their development plans and have not done so.  This goes against the spirit of everything that I thought a unversity stood for in terms of cooperation with its neighbors and especially respect for the past. 

I am not totally unrealistic.  I see the need for the University to maximize the use of its lands in East Campus and addressing concerns for revenue and growth. 

I believe that everyone could win in regards to the development needs of the Unversity if the willingness to compromise on both sides is there.  I believe that on the part of the residents of Garneau this is the case.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that same flexibilty is in the heart of those LRDP proponents who have invested so much time into a flawed plan to this point, and rather than revisiting the plan to the expense of egos and money, they will soldier on with little modification or concern for the future relationship with their neighbors or preservation of the character which makes the U's campus unique.

Kevin Perrott

 


Dear Ms Rowan,

Despite hiring and receiving the expert and non-biased opinion of three well-known and respected heritage architects (in David Murray's case, I know definitely, on a national level) the University prefers to align itself with three, are you ready for this: history professors who:

1. are under the employ of the University,

2. one of which switch's his area of expertise depending on the way the wind blows,

3. who appear be doing nothing more than merely mouthing the official party stance of the University's development schemers.

4. one of which is part of the LRDP constellation and has never shown the slightest appreciation in the historic nature of the North Garneau area.

5. Another of which, while sitting on the HSMBC, never so much as answered my e-mails when I was compiling a list of "interested parties" who would be supportive of national historic recognition of the area. In this situation, I was contacting Prof. Mcleod as representative of the HSMBC, not as University staff (as he admits in his response to the evaluation of the heritage architects); his silence at that time led me to suspect that he chose silence, rather than responding either one way or the other, BECAUSE of the fact that he was a U staff. In my opinion, he failed as representative of the HSMBC.

In contrast to my earlier empassioned belief that with enough information, the LRDP planners would gain enough insight to adjust their plans to incorporate and enhance the jewel that is North Garneau, I almost have to laugh now when I think of some of the people who "represent" the University to the communities. For example, I confronted Don Hickey at a public meeting last May, 2003, demanding who had received the contract to begin construction in the North Garneau area that upcoming summer, as surveyors and their flags had been seen. Mr. Hickey had replied that no plans had been made; no contracts had been signed. Then lo and behold the tower feedlot for students across from the Law Building began to be constructed that same summer.

Please forward this correspondence, and my sincere sympathies to those involved in this sham of a process. There is no integrity in this process.

Karin MacCarthy


18 February 2004

Emily Rowan
Office of Public Affairs
689 General Services Building
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB
T6G 2H1

BY E-MAIL: emilyp.rowan@ualberta.ca

RE: Evaluation and feedback, Open House for Sector Plan 3, 4 & 8, February 4, 2004

Dear Ms. Rowan:

Thank you for hosting the latest Public Information Meeting on the University's sector plans. I have chosen to send this letter as a supplement to the evaluation form that I completed online.

This letter addresses the following:
· The consultation process to-date, including the failure to meet your commitments of May 2003, failure to provide notice for the February 2004 Open House, the evaluation methods used, and the form and content of the February 2004 Open House
· Feedback on the draft Sector 8 plan
· Next steps.

(1) Consultation process
As I indicated in my letter of May 5, 2003, the consultation process has been difficult and unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, the process continues to be unsatisfactory, and fails to meet even the minimum standards for acceptable consultation.

A. Failure to meet its commitments of May 2003
In your summary of the feedback you received on the April 28, 2003 Public Information Meeting, you recognized that the community's first concern was for a "consultation process with meaningful communication." In that same summary, the University committed to nine "next steps," three of which were:
5. E-mail list of interested neighbors to be set up for direct communication
6. Heritage Assessment Report expected by June 30; public presentation planned for fall
9. Public meetings focused on other sector plans will be held as planning progresses.

The University re-iterated commitment number five in a letter from Judy Goldsand to me and other community members on May 15, 2003. The letter was copied to Facilities Vice President Don Hickey, Public Affairs Director Lee Elliot, and Planning Director Elizabeth Dechert, and read in part "One suggestion that we are implementing now was to establish a direct communications link with individuals so they would receive direct notification of public meetings and other information distributed to neighboring communities."

I note the following about the three commitments mentioned above:
· The e-mail information list never materialized. No information was provided to community members through the promised e-mail distribution list -and when I raised the issue at the May 5, 2003 Open House neither Vice President Don Hickey nor Director Lee Elliot could provide an explanation why the commitment was not met.
· The Heritage Assessment was not provided according to the original timeline, and its release to the public and community was delayed. The Heritage Assessment was originally the premise of the April 2003 public meeting. At that meeting, we were instead advised that the report would be finished in June, and shared at a September open house. The report did not become available until December 2003, allegedly because it was not yet completed. Yet faculty members received the report in September 2003 - as evidenced by the fact that three members of the History department were able to read the report and provide letters dated September 29 - October 8, 2003 stating their own opinion of the assessment. The Heritage Assessment was at first only by mail upon request, and did not become available online until January 2004, seven months after the proposed completion date you forecast.
· Only one other public meeting has been held - about development on south campus - and stakeholders were not properly notified. I personally received the University's notice of the December 3, 2003 South Campus open house on the evening of December 2nd. At that late date, other commitments prevented me from attending. I understand from residents near south campus that many didn't receive a flyer at all.

In addition to these issues, I note that in my letter of May 5, 2003 I provided specific information on the history of the house at 11046 - 87 Avenue, including information about its occupancy since 1989 and its cultural significance. Because the University would not provide contact information for the team doing the historical assessment, I asked in my letter that the University:
"Forward the information about the cultural significance of the residence at 11046 - 87 Avenue to the historical and architectural assessment team, along with my contact information should they require further information."

I have reviewed the Historical Assessment report, and strongly agree with its conclusion that both the neighbourhood as a whole, and individual homes, are of historical significance and worthy of preservation. However, in reviewing the description in the report about 11046 - 87 Avenue, it is apparent that the information I provided on that home was not forwarded to the consultants for inclusion. The occupancy since 1989 is incorrectly listed, and no other information appears. I again request that you provide this information to the assessment team, and I recommend that you review your records to ensure that any other information provided by community members was actually provided to the assessment team (or if not, that you forward that information to them for inclusion in a revised report).

B. Failure to provide public notice of the February 4, 2004 Open House
My understanding from your office is that two flyers were to have been distributed by the University in the Garneau neighbourhood - on the weekend of January 24, 2004 and the weekend of January 31, 2004. I received no flyer, or e-mail or other notice from the University about the event. It was only through a community organization that I knew the Open House was happening at all. In speaking with multiple neighbours - in my building, and in homes on 86 Avenue, 87 Avenue and 83 Avenue between 110 and 111 Street - I could find no one who received a flyer.

C. Failure to consult the community on International Residence development
At the Open House, Vice President Hickey reiterated statements made in other forums, indicating that because development of the new international residence was "internal" to the University (i.e. not directly bordering property under different ownership), there was no consultation with community stakeholders.

Similar explanations have been provided for developments on 112 Street, even though those directly border the community.

The impact of these developments is not just internal to the University. Aside from the incompatibility of the six-story concrete structure with the surrounding neighbourhood, developments like these significantly change traffic flows and population densities throughout the community. It is unacceptable that we were not consulted on this development, and is suggests a very literal, legalistic commitment to the ethic of consultation.

D. Evaluation of the Open House
I completed the evaluation form, but found it unsatisfactory. The few questions on the form asked whether or not the presentation explained the role of sector plans, and helped us understand the sector plans. Your questions did not ask for feedback about the consultation process, or the content of the sector plans. The only substantive question was unnecessarily vague - asking whether the plans give "positive direction to the University to support good, compatible, future developments."

In contrast, your evaluation form for the April 2003 meeting asked meaningful questions that allows stakeholders to provide input into the content of the sector plan. You asked about the presentation's clarity, and our satisfaction with how you addressed aesthetic, green space and traffic/parking concerns.

If you are conducting consultation, I would expect you to ask for our input on the content of the draft sector plans, and our feedback on how the consultation design could better meet our needs. You did neither.

E. Form and content of the Open House
The format and content of the Open House were not conducive to consultation. Specifically, I note that:
· An inordinate amount of time was spent explaining the principles behind sector planning (we've heard that before), and on Sectors 3 and 4. My impression was that the presenter, Dr. Julian Martin, was simply wasting time in order to minimize the explanation provided for Sector 8 (which was the point of interest for nearly all in attendance), and to minimize the time for questions.
· The presenter was not well-versed in the details of the Sector plans, and provided only a cursory overview of their content. He was unable to accurately respond to questions, or accurately describe the plan's details. I also found his personal demeanor very off-putting. In April, I wrote in my letter to you that the presenter for the first meeting was "Very good.Elizabeth Dechert is clearly expert in her material, and the presentation was detailed enough that we could understand the process and the draft sector plans." Your presentations should be delivered by someone similarly well-qualified, who is intimately involved with development of the plan under discussion.
· Portions of the presentation and handout materials - specifically the artist's conceptions - were vague and misleading. I will be frank with you and say that I feel the depiction of 90 Avenue bordered on the fraudulent and should not be distributed in any of your materials going forward. The artist's conception of 90 Avenue (facing west) depicted only three-story walk-ups, and omitted the six-story parkade which your plans say will occupy nearly half of the block. In addition, the drawings for 87 Avenue clearly depict commercial development in place of the homes on that street (the same type of development you describe for 87 Avenue on the maps of the area). Yet when we objected to commercial development on 87 Avenue we were told that the houses might well stay, and that the drawings represent only "one option." If the houses were going to stay, there wouldn't be objections. There is absolutely no point to a consultation process that describes a smorgasbord of development options, and asks the community to trust the University to pick the best one. You need to be clear and honest about your preferred options, listen to our feedback about it, and then adapt your plans.
· There was no discussion of the Sector 7 plan - which during the April 2003 session was considered integral to the Sector 8 plan. No meaningful consideration of Sector 8 development can occur without simultaneous discussion of options for Sector 7 and South Campus.

(2) Feedback on draft Sector 8 plan

You have not asked for feedback about the draft Sector 8 plan, but I would like to reiterate the thrust of the comments I made in my previous letter, and at the Open Houses.

Essential elements of the Sector 8 plan that are unacceptable. These include:
· The drafting of a development plan prior to meeting your commitment to develop a community preservation plan based on the results of the historical assessment.
· Developing three to six story buildings in place of the detached residences that mark the community. This approach will destroy a heritage community, reduce the quality of student life, and cast a pall over a larger neighbourhood.
· Significantly expanding the North Garneau student residence population. The Long Range Plan already calls this "one of the most densely developed [campuses] in Canada." Yet while the plan says "densities at South Campus, Michener Park and Faculte Saint-Jean need to be of a scale compatible with surrounding suburban development," it makes no such provision for the neighbours in North Garneau.
· Commercial development in a residential neighbourhood.
· A refusal to consider in-fill development, downtown facilities or south campus as options to meet student residence needs.
· A refusal to provide justification for the target of housing 15% of students in University-owned housing - including information on how the target was arrived at.

In sector eight, the sector plan calls for three to six-story development that ostensibly will be sympathetic to the community, and for the potential development of a parkade straddling 111 Street. These are both fundamentally incompatible with the community, and at odds with the long-range plan's goal of creating an "urban village" atmosphere in Garneau. The neighbourhood is already a very successful urban village. Any development in sector eight should respect the aesthetics of the neighbourhood, occur on the existing empty lots, and be in harmony with the detached single residences that predominate in Garneau. As for the process by which the sector plan was reached, it clearly disregards the prevailing sentiments of neighbouring communities and area residents.

Next steps
My understanding from the Open House is that the University remains committed to:
· Consulting further, including through Open House(s), on the Sector 8 plan
· Not pursuing any further development in Sector 8 in the immediate future (while you have not defined the term, I take it to mean at least the next 3 - 5 years) · Completing a Preservation Plan for Sector 8.

Please advise me immediately if any of the above is incorrect.

I request that you incorporate the comments in this letter into your summary of feedback, and provide the following specific feedback directly to me:

  1. An explanation of why the promised e-mail distribution system was not established
  2. An explanation of why I and many neighbours did not receive a flyer invitation to the February 2004 Open House
  3. An indication of whether or not future communications will include (a) an e-mail distribution system, or (b) community notices
  4. An indication of whether or not the information I provided in May 2003 on the house at 11046 - 87 Avenue was forwarded to the assessment team. If it was not forwarded, a commitment to (a) forward the information and have the assessors incorporate it into their report, and (b) investigate to see if similar errors were made.
While I am disappointed in the University's development plans, and its approach to consultation, I want to emphasize that I am supportive of the University of Alberta, and its continued growth and success.

I believe that the University's further success can be compatible with the preservation of North Garneau - and that the preservation of our community would enhance the value and appeal of the University.

It is my hope that the University is willing to deepen its commitment to public consultation, and that we can work together to improve the process so it generates outcomes we can all support.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input.

Sincerely,

MJ Kennedy

cc.
    Councillor Michael Phair, City of Edmonton (michael.phair@gov.edmonton.ab.ca)
    Councillor Jane Batty, City of Edmonton (jane.batty@gov.edmonton.ab.ca)
    Don Hickey, University of Alberta (don.hickey@ualberta.ca)
    Lee Elliot, University of Alberta (lee.elliot@ualberta.ca)
    Douglas Gorman, Preserve Garneau (dgorman@davis.ca)


Saving the Best of the Past for the Future
email: doug.gorman at preservegarneau dot org