Last night (April 6) I hosted my third community council meeting at the Artful Dodger in the beautiful Heritage neighbourhood. The theme was Community Safety and Parking. This was inspired by Ward 3 resident, Lauren Steele, who suggested the idea. Representatives from the Regina Police Service, Parking Services, and Traffic were on hand to take questions. Matt Flagman, who helped to launch a parking space sharing service called Offstreet (www.offstreet.ca), was also there to help promote his new app. Here are some take-aways:
1. There are no easy solutions to the parking dilemma. It's a symptom of population growth, an increase in the number of cars, and finite spaces.
2. The General Hospital needs to build a multi-story parking structure for staff, patients, and visitors.
3. Surface parking lots are a problem, not a solution. They are a waste of space and deprive the downtown/Heritage, especially, of what could otherwise be lucrative commercial and residential development (and taxes).
4. Public engagement matters. It's important for Councillors, city staff, and citizens to work together to find policy and planning solutions. This matches the lived experiences of people with the technical expertise of trained staff. Process matters. It also helps us Councillors think about policies that require change, crafting, and adequate funding.
5. Community safety is important, but new laws targeting the poor (read panhandlers) are not the solution. We need an anti-poverty strategy, not more policing of poverty. That said, the RPS, and community policing generally, has an important role to play here. I also found out that 306-777-6500 is better than 911 when people need to have police dispatched to non-emergency matters in their community.
6. There needs to be a downtown community association. I've spoken to workers, residents, and folks from the RDBID about this, and I would love to help community members get this off the ground.
7. "Safewalk" programs downtown exist, they just need to be promoted more effectively. The downtown ambassador program is one example.
8. Back to parking. Investments in public transit is *part* of the solution to the Heritage/downtown parking dilemma. But because people might travel from around the city, and indeed the province, to visit the General Hospital, we can't expect everyone to bus, bike, or walk.
9. Innovative technological responses are also part of the solution. See Offstreet. I think the City needs to invest in more of these responses, like Saskatoon has.
10. "Zone Forward", the City's comprehensive review of existing zoning bylaws, is long overdue. It's also a critical opportunity to reflect on how we structure neighbourhoods and complete community, shape parking requirements, and introduce "green" and renewable energy requirements on surface lots. These are just examples.