Changes to the City Planning & Development Process and Rules

The City is completely changing the planning and development process by revising several key statutory documents:

  • Municipal Development Plan "MDP": overall long-term plan.
  • Guidebook for Great Communities "Guidebook": a more detailed plan the guide the creation of Local Area Plans.
  • Local Area Plans "LAP": Calgary will be divided into approximately 40 multi-community Local Areas.  A LAP will be created for each Area. The LAP is a detailed plan that sets out what types of buildings can be developed, or redeveloped, and where they can or can not be built.
  • Land Use Bylaw "LUB": the detailed requirements and rules that define the general shape and size of a building, and what the building can be used for, for each lot in Calgary.

The changes are aimed at increasing the population density in the developed area neighborhoods, including Elboya and Britannia.  There are numerous problems and concerns regarding the Guidebook and its implementation.  The three areas that concern us the most are:

  • The elimination of Single- Family Home Neighbourhoods: multi-unit developments will be allowed anywhere in Calgary.
  • Implementation: The City’s limited consultation, aggressive timing, and lack of consistency, clarity, certainty, and understanding regarding the new process. The City's failure to notify property owners about the significant impact these changes will have.
  • Reduction of Citizen and Community influence: the changes will reduce the public's ability to influence redevelopment in their neighbourhood

This page is intended to provide up to date information on these proposed changes.

Latest Updates

**Upcoming Public Meetings Regarding The Guidebook**

  • City Council Public Hearing on approval of the Guidebook has been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19

Check the City Web-pages for latest updates

Guidebook for Great Communities

The City is changing its Planning & Development process and rules (Why City Planning).  The changes are outlined in the Guidebook for Great Communities and  will be implemented through new “Local Area Plans and revisions to the “Land Use Bylaw LUB”.The purpose is to:

  • Implement the Municipal Development Plan
  • Guide Local Area Planning
  • Provide guidance to Planning Applications

Process and Rule ChangesThe Guidebook introduces form-based planning, as opposed to the use-based planning (districts).  It represents a completely new planning system in the City of Calgary.  It will replace the current development process by:

  • Replacing all existing local residential development plans with new Local Area Plans.
  • The Local Area Plans will develop new planning maps identifying what and where the new Urban Forms will be used.
  • Replacing the current Land Use Bylaw LUB District rules with a new Urban Form Classification System outlined in the Guidebook with 16 categories.
    • 3 Neighbourhood Commercial (major, minor, local)
    • 3 Neighbourhood Housing (major, minor, local)
    • 4 Parks & Recreation
    • 5 Industrial
    • 1 Campus
  • These Categories are also modified by Scale Modifiers: Tall, High, Mid, Low, Limited

Planning and Urban Design Committee Updates

The Planning and Urban Design Committee Approved the Guidebook At their March 4, 2020 meeting, the Planning & Urban Development Committee (PUD) voted to approve the Guidebook for Great Communities and to recommend that the Mayor and Council vote to make the Guidebook a Bylaw at the Council April 27 meeting.What’s NextAt the April 27th Council meeting there will be a Public Hearing on the Guidebook.The Mayor and Council will consider the PUD’s and Administration’s recommendation, listen to public speakers (and see who is in the audience), and vote to make the Guidebook a ByLaw: approve it, revise it, or reject it. (the process is like the PUD process) link to PUD ProcessWhat Can you Do?

  • Support EHBCA, we may need volunteers, check the website for updates
  • Email the Councillors and Mayor (add email addresses).
  • Councillor Farkas is a strong supporter of our position on the Guidebook and does not need “convincing”, but emails to him show him how many Calgarians share our concerns
  • “Participate” in the Council April 27 meeting

CoronavirusEHBCA will not hold any physical meetings or Townhalls.  We will communicate through this webpage, Facebook, Twitter and emails.April 27 Council MeetingThe City has announced "All Chamber events for March and April have been cancelled or will be hosted online".We have tried to contact the Mayor and Administration for clarification regarding the April 27th meeting; no response to date.We don’t know what “hosted online” means exactly, but we are very concerned that, if the meeting is online, public representation will be limited and not effective.We are trying to get the Guidebook review postponed rather than “hosted online”.  We will update you, stay tuned.Revised GuidebookThe Administration issued a revised Guidebook February 28, just 6 days before the Planning & Urban Development Committee March 4th meeting.The revisions were minor clarifications and do not impact any of our concerns with the Guidebook.How the Planning and Urban Design Committee PUD WorksStanding Policy Committee on Planning & Urban Development Committee The Mandate of the Standing Committee on Planning & Urban Development is to provide recommendations to City Council regarding:(a) land use planning and policy;(b) development and building approvals;(c) urban strategy; and(d) community planning. There are 7 Councillors on the PUD committee.Process: For each Agenda Item

  1. The City Administration

The Administration makes a presentation to the committee on their, eg Report PUD2020-0207 to explain and justifying their recommendation.They end with a specific recommendation, for example:

For example:ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDATION:That the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development:1. Direct Administration to:a. Prepare a bylaw for the Guidebook for Great Communities; andb. Forward the proposed Bylaw, to accommodate the required advertising, and this report, directly to the 2020 April 27 Combined Meeting of Council2. Recommend that Council:a. Hold a Public Hearing for the proposed bylaw at the 2020 April 27 CombinedMeeting of Council, and give three readings to the proposed Bylaw;
  1. Public Speeches / Presentations

The public can submit letters in advance of the meeting, and they are included in the information package supplied to the Councillors.Prior to the meeting, members of the public can sign a list indicating they wish to speak about an agenda Item. They can hand out copies of their letters if they were not previously submitted.At the meeting the committee Chair asks “would anyone would like to speak on this Item”Each speaker has 5 minutes. They are very strict and will cut the speaker off at 5 minutes.  The committee can ask questions to each speaker.After the speeches are given, the Public have no more input into the meeting.

  1. Committee Questions to Administration

Each committee member asks questions to the Administration Staff.

  1. Committee Motions

Committee members can make motions on the Administration recommendation; accept, revise, reject, defer, etc.  Eventually there will be a motion to approve the Administration’s recommendation, perhaps with amendments.

For example:Moved by Councillor CarraThat with respect to Report PUD2020-0207, the following be approved, as amended:That the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban DevelopmentThe Administration recommendation, with amendments is inserted

The committee votes.  If the vote is yes, the Administration caries on as instructed. If the vote is no, another motion can be raised, or the recommendation is rejected.  If it is a tie vote, the motion fails.Planning and Urban Design Committee March 4 MeetingItem 7.4 Guidebook for Great Communities (link to support documents)Link to Meeting Minutes     Link to Video of Meeting    Link to Agenda and support information(to help navigate the 9 hour video, here is a summary showing hour in the video for the various discussions) Participants:The Councillors at the March 4 meeting were Councillor Gondek (Chair), Councillor Carra, Councillor Demong, Councillor Farrell, Councillor Sutherland.Missing were Councillor Jones and Councillor Wooley.Although not a member of PUD, Councillor Farkas also attended and could vote.The City Administration had a panel of 5 senior staff who were there for the whole discussion as well as 5 to 10 support staff at various times to make presentations and answer questions.There were about 30 to 40 people in the Audience.  Most were Community Association presenters and their supporters.  Most were “older”.  There were very few “young” people.  There were very few members of the general public other than the CA membersMeeting Summary:To help find the discussion on the video, the start time, end time and duration is given for various parts of the meeting.The committee combined Item 7.4 Guidebook and Item 7.5 North Hill Local Area Plan.  This discussion focuses on the Guidebook.

  1. The City Administration (1:43 to 1:58, 16 minutes)

The Administration made a presentation to the committee on their Report PUD2020-0207 Link to 7.4 to explain and justifying their recommendation.

  • Basically, a description about how wonderful the Guidebook is.
  • No comment about possible negative impacts, no recognition of our concerns
  1. Public Presentations (2:18 to 2:52, lunch, 3:54 to 5:47, total 2.30 hours, 26 presenters

Public Submissions:EHBCA, Brentwood CA, Federation of Calgary Communities, Community Associations of Developed Calgary.   (link to PDF’s)However, many submissions did not make the Administration’s deadline.  The presenters were able to hand out copies at the meeting. Here are links to some: Community Associations of Developed Calgary, Cliff Bungalow, Inglewood, Meadowlark Park  Link to PDFs

  • Each presenter is allowed 5 minutes. It is strictly enforced. It makes it difficult to make complex arguments. Some presenters broke their submission into 2 or 3 parts and had a different person present each.
  • The minutes list the presenters
  • The presentation touched on all the issues we are concerned about and were all well done.
  • There were very few questions from the Councillors.
  • Please watch the Video. You can easily fast forward through parts you are not interested in.
  1. Committee Members questions to Administration (5:49 to 8:18, 2:10 hours,
  • Councillors Carra (5:59 to 7:23, 1:10 hr): supported the Guidebook although he spent many minutes to try to get the Administration to change two words.
  • Councillor Farkas (7:23 to 7:43, 20 minutes): well worth watching, he is very supportive. He asked the Administration some tough questions.
  • Councillor Farrall (7:43 to 7:59 16 minutes)
  • Councillor Sutherland (7:59 to 8:18, 20 minutes): He tried to get the Administration to explain the low-density areas form and if rowhouse were really going to be allowed everywhere.
  1. Councillor Motions

Councillor Farkas Motion (LINK) (8:18 to 8:25, 7 minutes):VERY good summary of our issues and a proposed amendment.Vote: For: Councillor Farkas, Councillor Demong, Councillor Sutherland.  Against Councillor Farrell, Councillor Gondeck, Councillor Carra.  Tie, motion failed.There were various other motions finishing with motions.Councillor Carra Motion linkApprove the Administration’s recommendation: send the Guidebook to the April 27 Council Meeting for Public Hearing and recommend to Council that the Guidebook be made a ByLaw.First Vote:For: Councillor Carra, Councillor Farell, Councillor GondekAgainst: Councillor Demong, Councillor Farkas and Councillor SutherlandTIE: MOTION FAILEDCommittee permitted, by general consent, Councillor Sutherland to change his vote from the negative to the affirmative.For: Councillor Carra, Councillor Farell, Councillor Gondek, Councillor SutherlandAgainst: Councillor Demong, Councillor FarkasMOTION CARRIED Key Takeaways from the meeting.   Note: These are observations and options of individuals who attended the meeting and do not represent the EHBCA

  1. Observation: The Administration is intransigent

The City is a corporation, the council is the board of directors, the Administration is staff.  When the board ask the staff to change 2 words in the guidebook, the staff said NO. "our software doesn't make it easy for us and it will take too much time".  And the Councillors said OK.The administration will not change the Guidebook, tolerate any delay to their schedule, or engage in any meaningful dialogue with the Community Associations.Council will not stand up to them or get so frustrated they give up.Conclusion: there will be no middle ground with the Administration. There is no point in talking to them.  There is also no point in trying to get Councillors to try to take control of their staff. 

  1. Observation: Swing Councillors:

The public presenters seemed raise the awareness of some Councillors that the Administration and Guidebook really is going eliminate R-C1.  They voted in favour of Councillor Farkas's motion and against the motion to accept the guidebook.Conclusion: we have a real opportunity to educate and persuade the swing councilors.

  1. Observation: Case for R-C1  

In his final speech, Councillor Carra said:"If you really want to talk about preserving single family neighbourhoods you've got to make an argument as to why that is good.  We're asking for heritage tools, things like that, think about attacking it from that angle.  Are their heritage landscapes, things like that?  Is that necessary. To be determined"Conclusion: we think there is an opportunity to generate support IF we can make a strong argument as to why a R1 neighbourhood is good. 

  1. Diversity

Councillor Farrel asked “where are the young people”.   As she looked out at the audience and presenters, she saw mostly retired white people.  One presenter (Kourtney Branagan, President of the Haysboro CA but pro rowhouse) looked at the audience and said “Very Small Demographic, look around, not representative”Conclusion: we need to change the stereotype to show that the Calgarians that want R-C1 neighbourhoods are just as diverse as the people who want to live in rowhouses. 

  1. Housing choice vs neighbourhood.

Councillor Farrel’s and other’s comments seemed to focus on “housing choice”.   For us, its as much “neighbourhood choice” not simply a house vs a rowhouse.Conclusion: we need to continue strongly emphasize that neighbourhood character, heritage, greenspace, and contextually sensitive redevelopment are key issues.  Can we find examples in “best in Class” development plans or current urban design philosophy that emphasize this? 

  1. LUB Revision

A lot of talk by the Administration was that “the details will be worked out during the LUB revision, but we don’t know what they will be”.  The LUB revision for low density is due Q3, 2020. Conclusion: we should try to get the Guidebook approval delayed until we see the LUB revisions.  The LUB revisions are the critical piece.Next Steps: Its all politics.  We need to convince each Councillors to vote to revise the Guidebook by convincing them it is what their constituents want.Suggested action plan:

  1. Get the word out to all CA’s and Calgarians
  • Get the concerned Calgarians to contact their CA and/or their Councillor.
  1. For each Councillor, set up a meeting with a groups of CA representatives from their Ward.
  2. Plan for the April 27 Meeting.

Inpact on Single-Family Neighbourhoods

Currently all renovations and new home construction must comply with the rules set out in the Land Use Bylaw 1IP2007 LUB. Most of our homes in Elboya and Britannia are in areas designated as “Residential – Contextual One Dwelling Districts” R-C 1. The LUB defines the intent of R-C 1 districts as:
  • “The Residential – Contextual One Dwelling District is intended to accommodate existing residential development and contextually sensitive redevelopment in the form of Single Detached Dwellings in the Developed Area.”
We support the current rules and want “contextually sensitive redevelopment” to continue.



Guidebook Changes

We expect that all single family neighbourhoods will be designated at the lowest density Urban Form: “Limited Scale, Neighbourhood Housing Local”.  Key parameters are:
  • “include a broad range of building forms including single-detached, semi-detached, rowhouses, townhomes, stacked townhomes, mixed-use buildings”
  • “the buildings can be a maximum three stories in height”.
This form will likely be similar to the current R-CG district:
  • accommodates grade-oriented development in the form of Rowhouse Buildings, Duplex Dwellings, Semi-detached Dwellings and Cottage Housing Clusters;

Elimination of Single-Family Home R-C1 Neighbourhoods

The issue that causes us the most concern, and will have the most impact on our neighborhoods, is the elimination of all areas that are currently devoted to single family homes by allowing multi unit buildings like Rowhouses in  all areas.

Altadore Rowhouse

  • Increased lot coverage
  • elimination of greenspace: minimal front and side yard, the backyard is paved driveway
  • elimination of trees: the trees in photo are on neighbouring home yards
  • shading and invasion of privacy of neighbouring houses

The Impact

  • There will be NO Districts with only single- detached homes (R-1).
  • NO contiguous areas preserved for single-family homes.
  • Loss of greenspace and trees, sunlight and privacy resulting from taller, bigger buildings.
  • Increased on-street parking issues and Increased traffic resulting in congestion and safety issues.
  • Three story multi-unit buildings will be allowed anywhere, anytime. There will be continuing uncertainty regarding when your neighbour’s house will be torn down and replaced with a multi-unit building.  There will be no opportunity to prevent it through a public hearing or appeal process.
  • Irreversible destruction of single-family homes.
To see what the future will look like, take a drive through Altadore  between 14 St SW and 20 St SW and 34 Ave SW and 40 Ave SW.

EHBCA’s Position

Multi-Unit Redevelopment where it makes sense

We are not opposed to modernized rules and increasing the population density where it makes sense:

  •  along LRT routes
  • along major transportation corridors (e.g. McLeod Trail)
  • in areas already being redeveloped with multi-unit housing
  •  in areas already identified as suitable for higher density development (e.g. Main Street initiatives such as the “50th Ave. Main Street”.

The Guidebook can meet its growth targets without eliminating all the existing single family neighbourhoods.

Preserving neighborhoods of single-family homes

There is no need to allow multi-unit redevelopment everywhere. We believe (as do many other developed area Community Associations) that contiguous neighbourhoods of single-family homes add to the quality of life in Calgary and should be preserved.

The Britannia Caveat may offer another legal protection in Britannia.

The Caveat land use restrictions states “only one single family dwelling house….may be erected on each lot”. We believe enforcement of the Caveat would prohibit any building form other than single-detached and prohibit “Back Yard” suites. We are working with several other Community Associations with similar Restrictive Covenants to determine how effective this “Legal Action” strategy will be. However, any legal action will be costly, and the Britannia Caveat Fund may need additional funding.

Implementation Concerns

The Guidebook for Great Communities: was issued August 30, 2019.

The City’s plan was to have it brought to City Council for approval and adoption into law in November 2019.

The Federation of Calgary Communities FCC immediately raised concerns:

  • “limited consultation and aggressive timing on this very critical document”
  • “lack of consistency, clarity, certainty, understanding”
  • “need for input”

FCC and at least 12 Community Associations (including EHBCA) made vigorous representation to the Councilors and at City Council meetings and Planning & Urban Development (PUD) Committee meetings expressing our concerns.

In response to these concerns, the City Council postponed final review of the Guidebook until April 2020 and instructed the City Administration to conduct a meaningful public engagement program and evaluate the results from a test implementation of the new process.

Ongoing Concerns

There are only 2 1/2 months (50 working days) to the April final review.  It seems unlikely that there will be much opportunity for “meaningful public engagement”.


Local Area Plan Concerns

The approval of the Guidebook would effectively allow multi-community Local Area Plans to apply the “urban forms” proposed in the Guidebook. Over the next five years, the aim is to have multi-community area plans in place for all developed Calgary.

Plan Development: The city will be divided into 42 multi community areas. A new Local Area Plan will be created for each by a Local Area Plan Team: Each local area plan consists of a team of city staff, and a working group from the community and developers.

EHBCA is in Local Area 8 which includes Britannia / Elboya, Windsor Park, Bel-Aire / Mayfair,  Meadowlark Park, Manchester, and Manchester Industrial.  The planning process is expected to start in 2021.

They current LUB districts are scrapped and the team designates the new Urban Form Categories and Modifiers as set out in the Guidebook.
Swaths of existing R-C1 single-family home neighbourhoods will be assigned “Limited Scale Neighbourhood Housing Local” that allow developers to choose from a much broader range of building forms.

The Administration will develop the plan in collaboration with a working group (described above), incorporating feedback from the broader public throughout the processes.

Timing: The process takes about 1 year from project start to the draft plan.

Plan Approval : Local Area Plans are ultimately decided upon by City Council.  Once a plan is finalized by the Administration, the plan will be presented to City Council at a Public Hearing. Residents and other affected parties will have the opportunity to express their support or objections to the Plan.  Council will adopt or reject the plan as a bylaw.

Test Cases: there are currently two test cases that hopefully will be completed in time to provide insight into the Guidebook Approval: North Hill Growth Plan  (areas 5 and 6) Westbrook Communities Local Growth Planning, (area 10) and Heritage Communities (area 31)

An Area Plan is a one-time blanket implementation of current urban design philosophy. It will likely do little to honour the history, value or contextual integrity of single -family home neighbourhoods.

There will be limited opportunity to look at specific locations or unique circumstances. Although full time City Planners and Developers staff, already familiar with the jargon and planning principles, may be able devote enough time to effectively work on the plan, it will be very difficult for resident volunteers to do the same.

Once the Local Area Plans are established, Developers can destroy a home and replace it with any approved Urban Form. The affected nearby residents will have no opportunity to raise concerns or issues with the proposed re-development.

Bylaw Revision Concerns

On 17 June 2019, Council directed the Administration to return with an outline for what new land use bylaw districts could look like based on the new Guidebook at the same time that the Guidebook is being proposed by Council.

The following are excerpts from the “Toward a Renewed Land Use Bylaw” relative to low density residential areas.
“Phase 1: Priority Focus November 2019-Q1 2021
• Work on a new Limited scale Neighbourhood Housing district that would accommodate inclusive and equitable choices for everyone throughout communities.
•  Output – New district that could be implemented across developed areas (with potential to expand to developing areas)
• Output – Implementation options for when/how to apply new district
• Output – How-to-Guide that will outline design intent and help to provide guidance when relaxations are requested

The new Districts and Rule will govern what buildings can be constructed.


The Guidebook will be approved based on the unclear text descriptions before the  Bylaw rules are revised.

How can decisions about the Guidebook be made before we know what it really means?  For example, we will not know what a “three story building” means until it is defined in the Bylaw.


What You Can Do

Join the Community Association

  • Check the website for information and developments. We’ll try to post information about City information sessions, suggestions for further action and requests for volunteers as needed.
  • Contact the Development Committee or Britannia Caveat Committee if you have specific questions.

Contact Councillor Farkas

  • Let him know about your concerns.

Attend the City Engagement information sessions (we’ll try to let you know when, where), provide feedback through they City’s webpages 

Tell them your concerns

  • Ask them questions:
    • Are R-C1 neighbourhoods going to be eliminated?
    • Is multi-unit redevelopment going to be allowed everywhere?
    • What does three story really mean, what will the maximum height be?
    • Will the maximum Lot coverage by buildings be increased; i.e. less greenspace and trees?
    • Can the Guidebook be changed, how do we do it, who do we have to talk to?
    • Why do you think you have to eliminate single family neighbourhoods?
    • Why can’t the growth goals be met without destroying single family neighbourhoods?
  • Find out what the City is doing

Participate in Surveys or Petitions if there are any

Attend the PUD meeting in March

Attend the Public Hearing in April