City Council Highlights
More information on Council and committee meetings can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Responding to the TRC Calls to Action
City of Saskatoon staff have provided a report outlining how different departments in the City are responding to the TRC Calls to Action. It is incredible to see the range of work underway and to see how staff are embracing this work, from Transit to Planning to Urban Design to Police and TCU Place. We are growing and learning about the next steps in reconciliation together to build a city that works for everyone and embodies the spirit of true partnership.
At Council we also decided to permanently install the Métis Nation and Treaty 6 Flags in the Saskatoon City Council Chambers as a way to recognize our relationship with the land and the spirit of cooperation we want to embody.
More information on what the City is doing can be found in the full listing of work that is underway.
Downtown Arena and Entertainment District
City Council received an update on the City administration’s work in identifying potential sites for a Downtown arena and entertainment district. A further update on this is planned for March. Here are four key points on the status of this project at this point:
- There is a huge value in knowing the location of the future arena and entertainment district, and I know that there is also a huge public interest in this and lots of speculation. I’m glad that there’s this interest because it shows that people are engaged and taking an ownership in this work. Determining the exact location will ensure that all future decisions are made with an understanding of how the Downtown core will look in the years and decades to come.
- At this time, research has been completed, including site visits, meetings with other cities, discussion with those in construction/engineering, and engaging expert advisory firms. Our City’s administration has said that this has helped in understanding what all needs to be considered and what the overall process looks like.
- However, the timeline to determine a preferred site needs to be extended. Based on lessons learned from other cities, additional technical factors need further consideration. Additionally, conversations with owners of potential private sites have taken longer than initially anticipated. Progress continues to be made, but additional time is required and this is worth doing right.
- Once the preferred ranking of the site options is determined, the public will be invited to provide feedback, which will be included in the final report for Council to make a decision. More information on this can be found in the City’s report.
Waste Reduction for Businesses
City Council decided on a path forward to help businesses and institutions reduce the waste that ends up in a landfill. Starting in 2022 all businesses will be required to have a container for recycling, and starting in 2023 all businesses that produce organic material as a result of their operations must do the same for organics.
This path rose to the top as the most preferred change during the City’s engagement on this issue. It is the least expensive to implement and operate, provides businesses and institutions with flexibility, and it has been implemented successfully other places in Canada.
This has been a long-standing conversation in our community, and this sector produces roughly three times the waste of the residential sector and 45% of it could be diverted through these programs. These changes will extend the life of the landfill and reduce our community’s environmental footprint.
The phased implementation will help fine-tune the program and operating decisions. The City is planning on taking an education-first approach and to create a stakeholder group on implementation. More information on this can be found online in the City administration’s report, as can a comparison of the options that were considered.
Property Safety Concerns
There are longstanding concerns in our community about property safety—including boarded up houses, unsafe living conditions, negligent landlords, and high volumes of emergency response calls.
This has been an ongoing concern during my time on Council, and we’ve never really had an easy and quick solution. Cities deal with these issues in many ways with different degrees of success, and often the policy choices that cities make have unintended consequences. What I have learned is that we need a multi-pronged approach and that the City can’t do this work alone, but in involves collaboration between different agencies.
City Council endorsed several changes to make improvements:
- Public Education: Help tenants and landlords know their rights and responsibilities to promote wellbeing and to empower people to make improvements. The Renters of Saskatoon and Area have said that public education has been lacking, so this is a welcome change.
- Crime-Free Multi-Housing: Conduct a review of the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program to see how it might be expanded in Saskatoon. This program promotes a sense of community and helps to address property maintenance concerns.
- Better Use Contractors to Fix Violations: The City currently uses contractors to fix property maintenance violations that affect the safety of a property, and then adds these charges to the property’s taxes. The City plans on being more aggressive about this in the future.
- Engage New Staff to Address Backlog: At Budget, City Council approved 1.5 new Fire Inspector positions, so now this will be used to address the backlog of property maintenance complaints.
- Be More Proactive: All boarded up houses will be treated as ‘Priority 1’ concerns and will be dealt with more methodically. The City will also explore what it would look like for it to take more of a leadership role in managing the well-being of the rental landscape in Saskatoon.
- Better Coordinate to Build Accountability: It is clear that there are competing jurisdictions in this area and that there are many different agencies and groups with a role to play. The City will be researching how to better coordinate so that we’re all rowing in the same direction and there can be clear accountabilities and roles.
There is no absolute best practice that works for all cities and all scenarios, but with this action plan we can make significant advances. Tenant safety is a significant piece of community safety.
Potential Pedestrian/Cycling Bridge and Utility River Crossing
At committee we received an update on initial work and cost estimates for combining a utility river crossing with a pedestrian/cycling bridge. At this time, no decisions were made.
This issue came about because with the future growth in the north-east part of the city there will be a need to build a utility connection from the City’s wastewater treatment plant to service this area. Normally, this connection would go under the river and the cost of construction would be covered through development levies on new lots. There was an opportunity identified that it might be cost effective to put this connection over the river and combine it with a pedestrian/cycling bridge.
Unfortunately, rather than being closer to cost-neutral, it is estimated to be about $9.1M more to build a pedestrian/cycling crossing as part of the utility crossing. An underground connection would cost $16M (paid for by development levies), but a bridge and an aboveground pipe would cost $25.1M.
The important question we face is whether this is the right place to spend these additional dollars to improve active transportation. City administration has analyzed the time savings for using this crossing to get across the river, and based on this I don’t find it entirely convincing that this would be a highly used crossing. The City is working on a comprehensive prioritized list of transportation projects, and this will provide us with further information to understand the bigger picture. I want to make sure that any investment of this type is making the greatest impact possible.
Corridor Growth and Transit Villages
City Council endorsed a path forward to implement the City’s Plan for Growth. This path forward will strategically create density and new development where it makes sense for Saskatoon.
As our city continues to grow and more and more people choose to call Saskatoon home, we have work to do now to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success in the future. The backbone of the Plan for Growth is the Bus Rapid Transit system that will have high-frequency service down major corridors of Saskatoon, as seen in this map.
Complementary to BRT is something known as corridor growth—or being intentional about creating density and better using existing infrastructure in the areas adjacent to these routes. This doesn’t mean building high rises up and down Preston and it doesn’t mean that these changes will happen overnight, but it means being really purposeful about how these areas are zoned and how it can work well with adjacent neighbourhoods. Saskatoon has always been changing, but now we are being really thoughtful in figuring out how we want to change so that we have the best possible result for residents. This will make us grow smarter so that we can save huge costs and liabilities in the future.
The guiding principles moving forward are to have these areas more oriented to transit, to strategically focus efforts on facilitating transformation of key areas, to focus on a mix of land uses to best serve the neighbourhood, and to make the spaces appealing, safe, inviting, and accessible.
Over the coming months more information will be released on potential zoning changes and what this may look like in each of the areas. For more information on this, you can read the presentation on this or the full report.