The City of Calgary is in the process of fundamentally changing the way in which planning and development are implemented in our communities. This is being undertaken quickly and with very limited community consultation. The University Heights Development Committee was alerted to these changes in October. Members of the Committee attended an Information Session on the proposed changes on Saturday, January 18th. City Administration/Planning hope to bring these changes to Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development (PUD) in March and then to Council for enactment in April. The City is proposing a document that represents a shift to form-based zoning regulations. The document entitled Guidebook for Great Communities is intended to become a statutory document this spring and will completely rewrite the assumptions and guarantees that residential communities presently enjoy.

Form-based zoning focuses on building form as opposed to our current zoning approach, which focuses on land use. Additionally, the Guidebook represents a significant city-wide ‘up zoning’. If the Guidebook is approved as proposed, low density areas currently zoned as R1, R-C1, (e.g., University Heights), R2, R-C2, R-CG, and M-CG could eventually be combined into one low density residential district. Maximum height would be 3 – 6 storeys, and housing such as semi-detached houses, rowhouses, townhomes, stacked townhomes and possible commercial mixed uses would be encouraged. Council has already decided “… that rowhouse development is considered a low-density form of redevelopment and should be considered appropriate throughout all communities in Calgary.”(Ref: What does this mean for low density districts? Toward a Renewed Land-Use Bylaw, City of Calgary webpage.) Applications for land-use changes to R-CG are currently being considered on a case-by-case basis. Corner lots, especially on busier streets, are common sites for these developments, but no area within the proposed low density residential area will be exempt from redevelopment. Residents can view the development signs in Banff Trail and Capitol Hill to see what is being planned for densification along 24th Avenue. This is an example of the type of development that the Guidebook will encourage.

As a result of decisions made at the PUD meeting on November 6, 2019, the North Hill Multi-Community Plan is being used as a ‘test case’ for the proposed Guidebook. The outcome from this work is anticipated to go back to PUD on March 4, 2020 and then to a Council Hearing in April. The glaring omission in this test case is that it will not test how this affects current residential areas. At this time, the sections regarding residential areas are not developed and/or released to the public. Essentially the City is asking for a blanket approval in April for policy that has not yet been written.

The University Heights Community Association’s view is that the changes proposed are of such significant magnitude and change of direction that the City has a duty to notify all Calgary in writing of this proposal including the anticipated or likely outcomes with regard to density, height, and use. A written notification was provided for the secondary suite policy and as the proposed changes in the Guidebook (proposed September 20, 2019) are far greater, similar notification is more than warranted. We further believe this change is of more importance than hosting the Olympics; hence, engagement inclusive of all communities and citizens should be conducted to understand if Calgary citizens want a change in planning direction before any changes to the statutory zoning regulations are enacted.

The University Heights Community Association urges you to take the following steps:

  • Inform yourselves about the Guidebook and its impacts (see the links below).
  • As this information is not being readily disseminated, pass on this information to everyone you know in a Calgary residential area.
  • Contact your Councillor and MLA to express your views on the Guidebook and request that the Guidebook not be sent to Council until all the details concerning the residential communities are clearly communicated to the citizens of Calgary and the citizens have had the opportunity to decide if this is the type of change they want for Calgary



Calgary’s Future Planning Efforts (City of Calgary)
Giudebook for Great Communities (City of Calgary)
Proposed New Development Rules R3 – Impacts for residential areas discussed here.


  1. Flora and Bruce Gillespie says:

    The “Guide Book to Great Communities” will become statutory April 2020. It will eliminate zoning as we know it. The University Heights Covenants enshrine the R-1 single-family home nature of University Heights and prevent subdivision. This is the only way University Heights can prevent the upzoning that will occur certainly occur. The City of Calgary’s push for densification is misguided.
    Cleary if housing supply is increased that does not mean demand will follow.

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