Guidebook for Great Communities: Planning and Urban Design Committee May 5 Meeting: OUR LAST CHANCE to prevent the negative impacts caused by the Guidebook

Concerns about the Guidebook: Elimination of R-C1 Neighbourhoods of houses

Our key concern about the Guidebook is that it will change the redevelopment rules to allow, and encourage, that some houses can be randomly torn down and be replaced by rowhouses, duplexes or two or more infill houses (on narrow 7.5m, 25 ft wide lots). The latest version of the Guidebook may also allow six story apartment buildings to be built on "higher activity streets" in the middle of our neighbourhoods. Our key goal is to conserve the core areas of Elboya and Britannia as R-C1 neighbourhoods of houses.

Planning and Urban Design Committee (PUD) Meeting May 5.

The March 22 Public Hearing directed the Administration to recommend amendments to the Guidebook to address numerous citizens' concerns heard at the Hearing. The Administration is to report their recommendations at the PUD May 5 meeting.

Since the Hearing, the Administration conducted numerous "Engagement " sessions where they "listened" to citizen's concerns in more detail. The Administration is now writing a report about the Engagement and a report about the amendments they are recommending. These reports will be made public Friday April 30, four days before the PUD meeting.

"Citizen Amendments" Letter

We do not know what the Administration's amendments will be. Based on the Administration's past and continuing refusal to meaningfully address our concerns, we assume their amendments will be unacceptable.

Since the Hearing, a group of volunteers has put together a set of specific amendments of the Guidebook. We feel will correct the most glaring flaws in the Guidebook and make it more tolerable. We have packaged the amendments as part of a letter that will be submitted to the PUD meeting and to the Mayor and all Councillors. The goal is to convince the Councillors that we have provided a reasonable set of amendments that DO address citizens concerns. We want them to vote to direct the Administration to meaningfully consult with citizens to end up with mutually acceptable amendments.

EHBCA has co-signed the Citizen Amendment Multi-Community Letter. A graphic summary of the amendments can also be found here.

"Delay the Guidebook" Multi-Community Letter

Over a hundred Community Association representatives (including EHBCA, Elbow Park, Mayfair Bel Aire) and individuals attended virtual engagement sessions. The Administration "listened" to us, but there was no discussion or consultation. The Administration gave no indication that they would consider our concerns; their mandate was simply to submit a "What We Heard" report to PUD.

This is the last chance Community Associations will have to try and influence the Mayor and Councillors. However we won't know what the Administration will recommend until April 30. It is ridiculous and insulting to expect that the Community Associations will be able to respond in four days.

A group of CA volunteers has put together a Multi-Community letter (click to view) asking the Mayor and Councillors to vote to delay consideration of the Guidebook amendments. We need enough time to develop meaningful responses to the Administration's amendments. We need the Mayor and Councillors to direct the Administration to actually consult with residents to cooperatively revise the Guidebook. We need to make the Guidebook an election issue in the October 2021 Civic Elections.

What Can You Do?

1. Send an email to the Mayor and Councillors

Write a short email to the Mayor and Councillors indicted what your concerns are and what you want them to do; delay and revise the Guidebook' and conduct meaningful consultation with residents. Their emails are:;;

2. Send a Submission to PUD and/or Speak at PUD

Anyone can speak (virtually) at the PUD meeting for up to 5 minutes or send in a short submission. For example: "I support the suggested Citizen Amendments to the Guidebook set out in the letter submitted to PUD." OR "Residents need more time to address the Administration's recommendations" OR " I think implementation of the Guidebook will cause significant negative impact on my neighbourhood and it needs to be revised". You can request to speak and/or make a submission for the PUD meeting through the Public Submission's Link


Change to Redevelopment in Elboya / Britannia

Our Neighbourhood Character

Elboya and Britannia are neighbourhoods predominately made up of medium/large size houses on medium/large lots.  This is what gives our neighbourhoods their unique character.  It is why we have chosen to live here. Most families buy a house in Elboya / Britannia because they want to live in good-sized house on a good-sized lot with a yard and trees.  The want to live in a a unique, quiet, stable neighbourhood close to downtown. Their choice is based on both house and neighbourhood.

Our neighbourhood character is currently protected by the redevelopment rules; a house can only be replaced with another house.

City Redevelopment Rule Changes

As will be discussed in more detail below, the City of Calgary is changing its redevelopment process and rules. Their main goals relative to residential neighbourhoods like ours are to provide more housing for anticipate population growth and to provide a wider choice housing types for Calgarians who do not want to live in houses.

To achieve these goals, they are changing the rules to allow, and encourage, that some houses can be randomly torn down a replaced with a duplex or two or more infill houses (on narrow 7.5m, 25 ft wide lots).

Positive and Negative Consequences

As with all change, there are always both positive and negative consequences.

Positive: the changes will address the City’s goals

Negative: relative to our residents’ lifestyle choice of wanting to live in a “unique, quiet, stable neighbourhood”

    • Unique: the unique character of our neighbourhoods will be eroded once different housing types are randomly mixed in with the existing houses; we will start to look and feel any neighbourhood.
    • Quiet: more people in the same area will lead to increased traffic, parking issues, general activity
    • Stable: the new rules will allow random replacement of a neighbours house with a duplex or infills; there will be no predictability or certainty regarding what might be built beside you.

EHBCA believes that the majority of our residents do not want these proposed changes to the redevelopment rules; the negatives outweigh the positives.  We have actively representing our concerns to the City Council and City Administration.

Webpage Outline

This webpage is divided into the following Sections:

Changes to Redevelopment in Elboya / Britannia

What the City is Doing, What EHBCA is Doing, What You Can Do

Changes to the City Planning & Development Process and Rules

Approval of the Guidebook: EHBCA Concerns

Guidebook for Great Communities: Treatment of Low Density Residential Areas

EHBCA Position

Local Area Plan Concerns

Land Use Bylaw Revisions Concerns

The Britannia Caveat

Changes to the City Planning & Development Process and Rules

The City is changing the planning and development process and rules by revising several key statutory documents.

Municipal Development Plan "MDP": overall long-term plan setting out principles, key directions, growth plans and policies.  The MDP was first made law in 2009 and updated in 2020.  EHBCA and many other Community Associations had concerns with its failure to recognize the values of Calgary's single family home neighbourhoods submitted letters expressing our concerns (click here for EHBC's letter).  The MDP revisions were approved by Council in spite of these Concerns.

Guidebook for Great Communities "Guidebook": a more detailed plan to implement the MDP. It is a new plan that was first issued in September, 2019 and is the approval process (see below)  It sets out new policies define what types of building can be built and where. It guides the creation of Local Area Plans. It will guide the revisions to the Land Use Bylaw.

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. It will be revised based on the Guidebook once the Guidebook has been made into law.

Guidebook for Great Communities: Treatment of Low Density Residential Areas

Existing Redevelopment Land Use Bylaw Rules

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.

2021 Guidebook Impact

The January 2021 version of the Guidebook has some significant changes in the treatment of existing stable low density residential area. The key changes are in Section 2.7 Neighbourhood Connector Policies, Section 2.8 Neighbourhood Local Policies, and Appendix 2: Neighbourhood Local Limited Scale Residential Intensity.  The new Guidebook:Divides the City into 3 Map Zones:

 Zone A: Inner City : communities typically developed prior to 1945,  for example Mount Royal, Elbow Park.

Zone B: Established Area: communities typically developed prior to 1970, for example Elboya/Britannia south to Anderson Road

Remaining Areas: communities typically developed after 1970, for example Lake Bovista, Canyon Meadows, anything south  of Anderson Road.  This area is not expected to experience much residential redevelopment pressure.  There is no change to existing redevelopment policies; they are not impacted by the Guidebook

Groups housing types into 3 Residential Intensities:

Lowest Intensity:  houses, include Infill houses on narrow lots (7.5m, 25ft wide).  Current LUB R-C1, R-C1N, R-C1L

Moderate Intensity:  Lowest Intensity + side-by-side duplexes + top-bottom duplexes.  Current LUB R-C1, R-C1N, R-C1L, R-C2,

Higher Intensity: Moderate Intensity + Rowhouses +Cottage Housing Clusters. Current LUB R-C1, R-C1N, R-C1L, R-C2, R-CG

The Guidebook set policies for each Zone which supports which Intensity will be allowed where.  Zone B: Established Area Policies:  Since EHBCA is in Zone B, we will focus on Zone B Policies as set out in Section 2.8.

2.8.f: Moderate and Lowest Intensity (houses and duplexes and infills) redevelopment should be supported in ALL areas of Zone B.

2.8.g: Higher Intensity (rowhouses, multi-unit buildings) redevelopment should be supported on collector streets, higher order streets or near or adjacent to Main Streets, transit station areas, and other Activity Centres as defined by a Local Area Plan

2.8.h: Lowest Intensity redevelopment should be supported where the parcel meets a specific criteria. This only applies to single parcels, not contiguous areas. The criteria are very specific and would likely only apply to a few parcels.


Implementation of the Guidebook will effectively change Elboya / Britannia to R-C2: houses + duplexes + narrow lot houses.  Future redevelopment will allow any house to be torn down and replaced with any of the three allowed housing types.  There will be no certainty or predictability about what type of structure will be built.

EHBCA's Position

Preserve and Protect the Heart of Calgary’s Low Density Residential NeighbourhoodsThe 2021 Guidebook for Great Communities should be revised to properly address the concerns of many Calgarians over the treatment of our existing homes in our stable low density residential neighbourhoods.     

Focused Redevelopment

“The Municipal Development Plan directs growth to typologies such as Main Streets and Activity Centres within communities. Guidebook p iv”. We agree with and support this key direction.  It puts densification where it should be.

The MDP also provides an excellent articulation of the benefit of focused redevelopment around activity centers and along the busier roads.

Section 2.2.1 Vibrant and Transit-Supportive Mixed-Use, Activity Centres and Main Streets.  Objectives:“Focusing most intensification to defined areas provides more certainty to the development and building industries and makes redevelopment more predictable for existing communities by lessening the impact on stable, low-density areas.”

The ad hoc random redevelopment in areas away from the preferred focused growth typologies should be avoided.

Neighbourhood Design

We believe that virtually all successful residential neighbourhoods follow the same general design;

  • Contiguous areas of one type of low density housing form separate from other contiguous areas of a different housing form.
  • They are not designed with higher intensity forms dropped ad hoc into the middle of lower intensity forms, or visa versa.
  • Intensification is focused adjacent to busier streets and activity centres.
  • Virtually all the new subdivisions are also designed along this same model.  Look at the layout of some of Calgary’s most innovative and successful new communities, Mahogany, Mackenzie Town, Auburn Bay.  They all have large separate areas of houses with separate areas of narrow-lot homes, other areas of semi-detached and duplex homes, and higher intensity forms along the busier streets and around the activity centres.  They do not mix housing forms.

    Existing Neighbourhood CharacterThe character of Calgary’s existing neighbourhoods started with the original design and then took decades to build. Great cities are characterized by retaining and protecting some neighbourhoods that preserve the City’s unique heritage and character.We should preserve and protect the existing neighbourhood core of homes against ad hoc higher intensity redevelopment.  This would focus the higher intensity to the defined areas where it should be.

    Future Uncertainty and Cumulative Effects The impact of the ongoing recession in the energy industry, and the worsening impact of the Covid 19 crisis suggest that Calgary’s population growth will be less than expected.The Calgary and Region Economic Outlook (Fall 2020) shows potential lower population and employment forecasts in response to the Covid 19 crisis.  With the current higher caseloads, deaths, and lock-down restrictions, these forecasts will only get worse.Calgary will not need as much new housing as the previous long-term forecasts suggest.

    For any new redevelopment, an existing home and streetscape must be demolished.  This is irreversible and cumulative. If redevelopment is ad hoc and random, with time the unique identity of the neighbourhoods will be eroded. With time, all our neighbourhoods will look the same.There is no need to reduce the unique character of existing neighbourhoods until it is obvious that intensification is required to meet new demand.Random, ad hoc redevelopment should be avoided to prevent premature destruction of viable homes to make way for densification that will likely not be needed.

    The City should preserve its existing homes and neighbourhoods for as long as possible.

    We propose the following revisions to the Guidebook.Create a new UFC “Neighbourhood Local Preservation” that retains the existing Land Use Bylaw District districts, rules and uses.Allow the Local Area Plan to identify the appropriate areas in which to focus intensification.All areas NOT identified for intensification should be designated “Neighbourhood Local Preservation”.This simple revision would:

  • Provide the needed density increases.
  • Retain and preserve existing neighbourhood character that took decades to build.
  • Focus redevelopment where it should be around busier streets and activity centres.
  • Reflect the design used in Calgary’s successful new communities: separate areas of different housing forms.
  • Provide more certainty to the development and building industries.
  • Provide more predictability and less needless impact to the majority of Calgarians who live in stable, low-density neighbourhoods.
  • Approval of the Guidebook: Concerns with the Content and Process

    Document Approval Process

    Statutory documents are prepared by the City Administration after various levels of public "engagement".  This engagement is often just education to convince the public to support the document.  There is no obligation that the Administration must address public concerns.

    Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Design "PUD".

    PUD is a committee of 7 Councillors that makes recommendation to the Mayor and Council regarding matters of:

    1. Land use planning and policy
    2. Development and building approvals
    3. Urban strategy
    4. Community planning

    The Administration submits a report and presentation recommending approval of the document they created at a PUD meeting.  The document is published prior to the meeting and available for public review.  The public can submit letters and speak (5 minutes each) for or against approval of the document. The Councillor vote, and if the document is approved it if forward to a Public HearingMayor and Council Meeting: Public Hearing.The process for a Public Hearing is similar to a PUD meeting: the document is made public prior to the Council Meeting, the Administration presents their report, the public speaks, the Councillors debate and vote.  If approved, the document become a Bylaw.

    Guidebook Approval

    Sept 2019 Guidebook for Great Communities The first version of the Guidebook for Great Communities was published in September 2019. It is a 147-page document that is confusing, full of urban planning jargon, unfamiliar concepts, ambiguous and difficult for the layman public to understand. It designates all low-density residential areas in all of “Developed Calgary” (built-out neighbourhoods with no ongoing new development) as Neighbourhood Housing Local Urban Form Category. It is our understanding that this would include houses, duplexes, rowhouses, townhouses.

    PUD Meeting, November 6, 2019: (links to agenda, submissions, video, minutes)The Administration presented their report recommending approval.  There were numerous objections including letters from the Federation of Calgary Communities and a muli-community letter from a network of concerned Community associations that EHBCA is part of. The Committee directed the Administration to conduct an Engagement initiative to inform the public about the Guidebook.

    March 2020 Guidebook for Great Communities The Administration published a slightly revised of the Guidebook a week before the March 4 PUD meeting.  There were no substantive changes that would impact Elboya / Britannia as discussed in the section Guidebook for Great Communities: Treatment of Low Density Residential Areas. On this webpage.

    PUD Meeting, March 4, 2020 (links to agenda, submissions, video, minutes)The Administration presented their report recommending approval. 26 people gave 5-minute speeches, 22 were against the Guidebook.  Many Community Associations, including EHBCA, raised our concerns and asked that the Guidebook should be revised to addressee them.  There was also about 40 to 50 people in the audience: most supporters of the Community Associations. The Administration vigorously argued to ignore our concerns and approve the Guidebook.The Committee voted to approve the and to recommend that the Mayor and Council vote to make the Guidebook a Bylaw at a Public Hearing at the April 27 Council meeting.

    Covid 19 Emergency Postponement: The Public Hearing was postponed due to the Covid 19 restrictions.

    January 2021 Guidebook for Great Communities The Administration used the postponement to revise the Guidebook. There was limited public input restricted to a small focus group.  It was published January 4, 2021. This version had substantive changes impacting Elboya / Britannia as described in the section Guidebook for Great Communities: Treatment of Low Density Residential Areas on this webpage. The major change was the removal of the potential for rowhouses to be a supported redevelopment option in the core of our neighbourhoods. This is a significant improvement over the previous versions.  However, it still allowed duplexes and infill houses.

    PUD Meeting, February 3, 2020 (links to agenda, submissions, video, minutes)The Administration presented their report recommending approval of both the Guidebook and the North hill Local Area Plan. As the March 4 meeting, many Community Associations and individual including EHBCA, raised our concerns.There were 58 public speakers (6 hours of 5-minute phone-in calls). About 18 were in favour, 40 were against the Guidebook and/or the North Hill Local area Plan. After a brief debate, the Committee voted (7 for, 1 against Councillor Farkas) to approve the and to recommend that the Mayor and Council vote to make the Guidebook a Bylaw at a Public Hearing at the March 22 Council meeting.

    Local Area Plan Concerns

    Local Area Plan Failure

    The  North Hill Growth Plan  has been developed over the last couple of years using the draft Guidebooks as guidance.  It was reviewed at Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Design PUD February 3, 2021 meeting.  Several Community Association who participated in the development were so unhappy with the outcome that the refused to endorse the Plan and  strongly opposed in at the PUD meeting.  In spite of public opposition, the Committee voted (7 for, 1 against) to approve the plan.

    Local Area Plan LAP Creation Process

    The city will be divided into 42 multi community areas.  Multi-community Local Area Plans will be created to apply the policies of the Guidebook. Over the next five years, the aim is to have multi-community area plans in place for all developed Calgary.

    In addition to the north Hill Growth Plan, there are two other Plans being worked on; Westbrook Communities Local Growth Planning, (area 10) and Heritage Communities (area 31)

    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 2023.

    Plan Development: 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.

    The Administration staff will create 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.


    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.

    Land Use 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.

    The Britannia Caveat

    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.