Edmonton could be first major Canadian city to open up parking rules for new builds

The stage has been set for Edmonton city council to relax the rules on how much on-site parking is needed for new homes and businesses.

A new city report on Open Option Parking confirms “the amount of on-site parking to be supplied for new developments will be determined by the landowner or business.”

It means city council will vote on the bylaw changes after an ongoing review that has lasted for the last couple of years. The goal has been to make Edmonton more compact, transit-oriented and more walkable.

“Change will be gradual as sites are developed or redeveloped,” the report said. “These changes will allow for greater choice and flexibility for land owners and developers to accommodate changes in the market.”

Council’s Urban Planning Committee asked for city planners to make some final tweaks to the guidelines and are proposing to council the change come in one step as opposed to being phased in.

“We are way over parked compared to other cities,” Councillor Scott McKeen said. “Open parking and being creative around it is long over due. We want business to be able to open without having to have 30 parking spots, which is sort of the old rule.

“Even neighborhood pubs had to have ‘X’ number of parking spots which sort of flew in the face of all of the efforts to end impaired driving.”

He also hopes if the new rules are adopted, it will encourage private developers to offer parking within their buildings during off-peak hours.

McKeen pointed to the Mayfair at 109th Street and Jasper Avenue as an example where renters can park without being directed to a designated space.

“I really like that sort of creativity and I hope we see more of it in our residential buildings as they develop downtown because that will pick up some of the demand that won’t be filled as we block surface parking.”

Minimum bicycle and accessible parking was part of the January 2020 report and minor adjustments have just been made to clarify exactly how that will be calculated. The ability for businesses and residential developments to share space was also part of the changes proposed, and both industry and the community have had a chance to weigh in to make shared parking easier.

Additional changes were added to apply Open Option Parking to the Quarters so that it will be consistent with the rest of the city.

Getting The Quarters into the mix will be key to seeing development happen on the eastern edge of downtown, McKeen told Global News.

“The Quarters has been a real problem for the city, I think, because we would like to see the area developed, we would like to see a removal of surface parking, yet we have many people who work downtown or visit downtown so the transition has to be done slowly and likely in coordination with our transit service.”

When the parking study began a couple of years ago, the idea of changing the way restaurants do business was never imagined until COVID-19 came along.

McKeen said the new business model might have to be considered.

“Yeah, I think we’re going to have to have a real good rethink about pick-up and drop-off spaces. I suspect we have quite a bit of that right now but if the reaction from business and the reaction from customers continues and there’s a lot more drop-off, pick-up and delivery service, then we’re going to have to react to that.”

The committee will vote on the changes June 23.

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