City Council Highlights
Developing University Lands
Over the past couple of years, the City and the University of Saskatchewan have been working together more strategically and more deliberately. This has resulted in some incredible research collaborations, but one of the most transformative ways we can work together is by developing university lands.
This work is fundamental to creating sustainable growth in the city and helps to advance the goals of both partners. This creates density, uses existing infrastructure, and helps to create more housing options in our growing city. The principles guiding this planning work include sustainability, transit-oriented development, and design that reflects Indigenous spaces and places.
The areas under consideration can be seen in this map. At full build out, it is anticipated that 50,000 people will be living in this area, making it the densest area of the city. More information on this project can be found in the City’s report.
Best Using our Riverbank Parks
Our riverbank parks are some of our city’s most treasured places, and it’s important to me to keep them accessible and inviting for everyone.
There has been some discussion recently about the wear and tear that summer festivals place on Kiwanis Park. The City’s administration had wanted to put a temporary pause on events in this park to allow it time to recover. However, I believe that we need to prioritize people over the state of grass. I want this area become more of a festival site in Saskatoon, and I’m happy that this park will continue to be used for events and gatherings, such as Taste of Saskatchewan and Ukrainian Day in the Park.
We also dealt with parking and transportation issues in Kinsmen Park. With the Wonderhub opening and the success of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, the Prairie Lily Cruise, and Nutrien Playland, this area has become very popular. We need to do some work on long-term parking and transportation solutions, but in the short-term I put forward a potential solution of working with City Hospital to use some of their parking spots that are underutilized on evenings and weekends, often when demand for parking is highest. By making improvements here, more people will be able to enjoy these great amenities in our community. More information on this can be found in the comprehensive study that was done.
Short-Term Accommodations Regulations
Cities across Canada are figuring out the best way to manage short-term accommodations, such as those found on Airbnb or VRBO. There are a lot of different factors to manage, such as housing affordability, housing supply, creating an even playing field with hotels, managing disruption to neighbourhoods, dealing with additional concerns in condos, safety concerns, and how hostels and established bed and breakfasts fit into all of this.
Because this is such a complex issue, City Council has requested that the City’s administration do some further research into this matter. The administration’s proposed method of dealing with this was through zoning regulations attached to a property, and we wanted more information on what this might look like if it was dealt with by licensing of the business. This will help to eliminate upfront costs, and allow for a more consistent monitoring as opposed to it all happening when the short-term rental is being created. A representative from Airbnb has said that they’ve had great success in using a business licensing approach in other Canadian cities to provide certainty for renters and hosts.
One thing that is unique about the approach Saskatoon is considering is to clearly differentiate between homeowners renting out an extra room or a basement suite in their house (a ‘homestay’) and property owners renting out an entire unit (a ‘short-term rental’). Homestays are proposed to have very minimal regulation, while there will be a more robust process for short-term rentals because of their impact on the housing supply and greater potential for neighbourhood impacts.
Further decisions on this matter are anticipated in April. Fortunately, our housing market is not in a crisis like other cities’ have been, so we have some time to get this right.
Electric Bus Pilot Project
The City has received funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to help fund a pilot project on electric buses in Saskatoon. The project will study the performance of the equipment, run lifecycle and financial analysis, and make recommendations on how the City should proceed.
Depending on the project’s success and available funding, the goal will be to replace ten buses a year from our current fleet with electric buses. Once the entire fleet has been replaced with electric buses, it is anticipated that 5,130 tonnes of CO2 will be reduced annually. Other cities have been making this switch, and have found that the buses are saving them money and are more reliable in the colder weather, as diesel buses have issues in our climate.
In my conversations at the Big Cities Mayors’ Caucus and with federal ministers, I know that the federal government is really interested in moving in this direction and helping cities make these investments. It’s good for Saskatoon to be helping to lead this change as opposed to playing catch up later.
Making Waste Collection More Accessible
City Council moved forward in figuring out how we can make our curbside waste collection more accessible and easier to use for those who have difficulties moving the bins.
A few years ago, the City created a program to help people move the bins to and from the curb on collection days, but this program has not been taking new subscribers for a few years now. City Council decided to reverse this trend and to explore how this service (or a similar service) could be expanded in the most feasible way. In the coming months, this will be explored and more information will be coming back to City Council.
The City has already done some engagement on this issue to help guide this work, and more information on this matter can be found online. Saskatoon recently won a provincial award for being an Age-Friendly Community, and doing this sort of work will help to build on this progress.
Bicycle Bylaw Update
Council approved some changes to the Bicycle Bylaw to help make getting around our city safer. Establishing clear rules to the road and educating about the importance of safety and the shared responsibilities that road users have helps to improve transportation in our community, regardless of how you get around.
One of the changes that we made was to allow people aged 13 and under to ride on sidewalks. We always want to encourage people to take the best, safest route, and sometimes this can involve traveling on sidewalks on busier streets. This was a change specifically requested by the Saskatoon Public School Division, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and the Saskatchewan Health Authority.