Recap: YIMBY Winnipeg Meeting of May 3, 2019

YIMBY Winnipeg had another jam-packed meeting on how to shift our city in a more urban, walkable and mixed-use direction.

After a round of introductions, we discussed the proposed planning commission. Unfortunately, a prominent advocate of the committee was unable to attend our meeting, so we did not get to hear the case for a commission directly from a proponent of it.

Planning Commission

There was talk of the Vancouver model, where councillors are present on planning commissions but just for advisory purposes. We noted that a prominent advocate of the planning commission in Winnipeg, Councillor Klein, believes it will “take the emotion” out of development proposals. Some were skeptical of removing councillors from the approval process, believing that they already have expert input (via the Urban Planning Division) and it’s just a way to wash ones hands of controversial decisions, for or against particular infill developments.

Some mentioned zoning bylaws as the real issue, with there being conflict between the Our Winnipeg plan that promotes mixed-use neighbourhoods and infill, and zoning bylaws that include special boundary conditions which limits infill in mature communities.

Planning for neighbourhood growth: One supporter’s vision for the Tokarz Park area

One supporter of YIMBY Winnipeg presented on their vision for neighbourhood-specific development and growth. Their vision is for intensification in part of the Templeton-Sinclair neighbourhood in northwest Winnipeg . This redevelopment plan would be anchored around improvement to Tokarz Park on the northside of Templeton Avenue. This person’s vision was inspired by the neighbourhood around Beeches Park in Toronto.

The crucial idea is to improve Tokarz Park, with increased amenities and trees, to make it a more desirable location. Once investments in the park are made, there can be rezoning of the block of Templeton Avenue south of the park, for higher density residential developments, commercial developments like unique stores, or mixed-use commercial/residential buildings. Other blocks of Templeton could be upzoned at a later date.

The advocate for this proposal notes one benefit could be calming traffic along Templeton Avenue, as more people stopping on the street to go to new, small scale shops and destinations will slow the speed of traffic. As of now, this portion of Templeton is used as a thoroughfare to reach big boxstores to the west, with vehicles often going down the street at high speeds.

There’s a number of ways this plan could be implemented. The advocate suggested a Templeton-Sinclair district wide vote on the plan after extensive public information and engagement efforts.

This type of neighbourhood-specific, large scale rezoning project is one potential direction YIMBY Winnipeg could go in terms of advocacy.

Good Street Development 

We discussed a major development proposed for Good Street. This project is being supported by the Public Service of Winnipeg.

This development is purpose-built rental housing: a six-storey building with 145 units – which includes 1, 2, & 3-bedroom suites. Also included are communal amenities such as a theatre room, a gymnasium, and a business lounge. It also includes 145 indoor bike parking spaces – one for each unit.

This infill site is located mid-block between Broadway and St. Mary Ave; a highly walkable location in the West Broadway neighbourhood in close proximity to downtown.  This development will replace unsightly surface parking lots and add a substantial number of rental units to meet a variety of housing needs, in an area that is well serviced by transit and has many amenities nearby.

We agreed to send out information to those on our mailing list about the project, with a recommendation of supporting it.

Action at the Appeal Committee & other City Committees

YIMBY Winnipeg encourages our supporters to support particular projects at Appeal Committees. Thus far, for particular projects, our spokesperson has done research and gathered particular points for supporters of given infill projects to make note of. The main intent of this is to serve as a central information hub for those who support a more mixed-use, walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly pattern of development in Winnipeg.

While providing space and informational resources for like-minded people to organize, there are some concerns over whether people who attend Appeal Committee meetings as private citizens are speaking on behalf of YIMBY Winnipeg. Critics have gone through statements by delegates to the Appeal Committee line by line and demanded YIMBY Winnipeg explain and defend everything that was said.

People noted that there are other advocacy groups which encourage supporters to engage in public consultations with the city. These groups, however, don’t have their supporters explicitly brand themselves as speaking on behalf of the advocacy group.

Based on this discussion, our group has come to a conclusion: While YIMBY Winnipeg provides information for like-minded individuals to attend the Appeal Committee, we recommend delegates to the Appeal Committee come just as private citizens and do not imply that they are speaking on behalf of YIMBY Winnipeg. 

Group priorities 

Supporters of YIMBY WInnipeg also discussed their specific priorities, such as access to groceries, commercial and mixed use development and walkable neighbourhoods.

We decided that YIMBY Winnipeg will devise a terms of reference. Our spokesperson will devise the first draft, which will be presented at our next full supporters meeting for discussion.

Residential Infill Strategy Working Group 

The City of Winnipeg’s proposed Residential Infill Strategy and concern over the direction its heading was key to getting YIMBY Winnipeg off the ground. There will be more public consultations later this year. Last year’s consultations proved how effective organized groups opposed to increasing mixed-use density and infill in mature communities can be. This year is a chance to prove that organized supporters of mixed-use density and walkable neighbourhoods can be very effective.

We need key policy specifics for supporters of mixed-use density to request in public engagement sessions, however. What is our positive ask of the city? 

To come up with specific asks of the City regarding the infill strategy, that will further our vision, we’ve devised our own Residential Infill Strategy Working Group. This group is brainstorming and coming up with specifics to request the City address in the Infill Strategy. We’ll report back to YIMBY supporters next general meeting.