Montreal parking app looks for a spot in Ottawa

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CityParking is an Uber-style app that allows drivers to reserve parking in private or commercial lots

By Mario Carlucci, CBC News

A Montreal start-up has its sights set on downtown Ottawa neighbourhoods such as the Glebe to expand its parking business.

CityParking uses an app, similar to Uber, in order to connect drivers with people who want to rent out their residential, commercial or institutional driveway spaces. Owners can rent their spots out by the hour to customers who book up to weeks in advance.

The city doesn't allow the rental of residential driveways unless the rental is part of a tenant agreement, but company founder Amin Dada said he wants to work with municipalities instead of trying to force his way into the market.

Dada said there's a tremendous appetite for parking in the city, especially around the redeveloped Lansdowne Park, where demand for street parking has outstripped supply, especially on CFL football nights.

It's a problem he experienced first-hand, living close to the Bell Centre arena in downtown Montreal.

"I had a prime parking spot, which all of my friends wanted to use and before I knew it I was playing virtual lot attendant for them, scheduling their parking needs," said Dada.

"I also used to drive to other areas and look for parking while so many spots around me were just empty and I couldn't access them because they were private. And I realized that there definitely has to be a way to solve this issue and get parking for everyone at a very cheap cost."

Owner wants app to be regulated

Dada knows there are zoning and bylaw obstacles, but thinks they can be overcome.

"We do want to get regulated in Ottawa … Bylaws are there to protect the citizens but bylaws also need to be revisited when the environment changes around them.

"We are looking forward to getting regulated and becoming part of the system and that's what we're doing in Montreal as well," he said.

CityParking is part of a "smart cities accelerator" initiative in Montreal, said Dada, so the startup was tasked with helping to ease traffic trouble and is being mentored by Montreal's traffic authority.

The company's public relations manager has also reached out to the city of Gatineau's environmental council, to start discussions on bringing the app there.

As for Ottawa, Dada said some driveway owners and drivers have begun to download the app in Ottawa, but he's really looking to get local councillors and politicians on board.

Councillor open to idea

Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the Glebe, says he's happy to look at any innovative approach to improving traffic flow and parking, especially if CityParking is interested in working with the city rather than entering the market and forcing the city to deal with it, the way Uber and Airbnb have done.

"I certainly see the merit of the service and having the debate and would welcome that. I hope it won't be another case of, 'Guess what? I'm doing business. Now try and stop me. Get rid of me,'" said Chernushenko, who adds the city is actually trying to get fewer people to drive to Lansdowne on game nights.

"If what you're saying is 'take your car rather than considering taking transit or considering cycling because now you have a guaranteed spot,' then unfortunately that's actually the opposite of what we want."

Costs, timeline make ranked ballots unlikely for 2018 municipal election

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Advocates for election reform in the City of Ottawa are losing hope for a ranked ballot municipal vote in 2018.

With the clerk’s office outlining the challenges and increased costs to holding a ranked vote election, it’s unlikely council will see much upside to rushing through a new voting system under tight provincial timelines.

Colum Grove-White of Ottawa123, a group advocating for ranked ballot elections, said he hoped the province would have settled on the regulations much sooner than September. The timeline for council to decide — a bylaw must be passed by May 1, 2017 — makes it difficult to change the voting system for next election, he said.

“Yes, we would definitely like to have ranked ballots in place for 2018, but the flip side is we don’t want to rush into it either,” Grove-White said Wednesday. “We really need to balance those two things.”

The province is allowing all municipalities to use ranked ballots for future council elections, but not school board elections.

A ranked ballot allows voters to rank their preference of candidates. Candidates attracting the fewest votes have their ballots redistributed to other candidates based on the rankings. The winner must have a majority of the votes.

In the existing first-past-the-post election system, the candidate with the most votes wins.

Grove-White said a referendum on the voting system might be an option, but Ottawa123 prefers striking a “citizen assembly” to make a recommendation on what kind of election system to use.

The City of Kingston’s council has decided to have referendum question on ranked ballots. The question will be put on the 2018 election ballot.

The amalgamated City of Ottawa has never held a referendum.

According to Tyler Cox, the city’s manager of legislative services, adding a referendum question during the 2018 municipal election could cost about $1 million. Advertising and staff would drive the referendum costs.

For results of a referendum to be binding, at least 50 per cent of eligible electors must vote. Only once since amalgamation has voter turnout in an Ottawa municipal election hit 50 per cent (2006).

Several councillors on Wednesday were still thumbing through a large report on election reform published late Tuesday afternoon by the city clerk’s office.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko supports the idea of ranked ballot municipal elections, but he’s disappointed to see such a large cost estimate to make it happen in 2018. The city says a ranked ballot election would cost $3.5-million more than a traditional first-past-the-post election.

Statements on Glebe hate crime

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I write this with a heavy heart, after the hate incident perpetrated last night at the home of Rabbi Anna Maranta, on Powell Ave.

There is no room for complacency here. Someone in our midst felt it was acceptable to vandalize someone’s home with a hateful message, and we must make it loud and clear that they are wrong.

Each of us must stand with all the residents of our community to show our support for each other at a time when vulnerable groups are feeling understandably nervous.

I am encouraged by the swift condemnation of this disgraceful act, and by the equally swift action taken to remove the graffiti. This is the tolerant and inclusive Glebe and Capital Ward that we all know.

Best regards,
David


Community associations in Capital Ward, as well as the Glebe BIA, have also shared statements in the wake of recent hate crimes:

Glebe Community Association

The Glebe Community Association advocates for a liveable, sustainable, diverse urban neighbourhood and believes in a safe community which welcomes, and is enriched by, diversity, broadly defined. 

We were all shocked and greatly offended by the racist, hate-crime committed against one of our neighbours. 

We express our support to Rabbi Maranta and ask that the City of Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP do all that is possible to immediately bring the criminals to justice. We also request anyone with information about the perpetrator report to Crimestoppers.

Glebe BIA

The Glebe Business Improvement Area is horrified by the appearance of hate graffiti on the home of a local resident. The symbols send a message of intolerance and hate to the entire community and we regard it as a sickening act.

While we view this as an isolated incident, we cannot allow this behaviour to continue as we all have a role to play in combating bigotry. Hate is not welcome in our community or our society. We are thankful for the quick response to this incident and urge all community members to answer the call to work towards a more civil and inclusive Ottawa.

We wish to let those victimized by this thoughtless crime know that we condemn these actions and are committed to working with the community in any way necessary to see that such things do not happen again.

The Glebe is a place that is welcoming and inclusive, a neighbourhood where this type of behaviour will never be tolerated.

Old Ottawa East Community Association

The residents of Old Ottawa East were appalled at the news of today's hate crime committed in our sister neighbourhood, the Glebe. We are a community that welcomes diversity and supports freedom of religion.

Old Ottawa South Community Association

The Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA) wishes to express its outrage and anger about the recent incidents of vandalism targeting minority groups in Ottawa.
 
Ottawa is known to be a city that is diverse and celebrates our many differences. We can only hope that these cowardly acts have been carried out by a person or a small group of people who are simply attention-seekers for all the wrong reasons.  We are confident that the ongoing police investigation will soon find the perpetrators and they will be brought to justice.
 
Our thoughts are with those who have been personally hurt as a result of these hate crimes.

Glebe Annex Community Association

The Glebe Annex Community Association categorically condemns the hate crime perpetuated against a Glebe resident at her home on November 15, 2016.

As the centre of Canadian democracy and a symbol of freedom to the world, our city has no place for these types of cowardly attacks. We express our support unreservedly to Rabbi Maranta and encourage our residents to report any information that they may have regarding the incident to Ottawa Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit.

Ottawa has become one of the world’s great cities due its commitment to serve as a sanctuary for all those who wish to live in peace, no matter who they love, who they pray to, what language they speak, or where they may come from. The Glebe Annex Community Association will continue to support the right of all people to live here in peace.

Dow's Lake Residents Association

The Dows Lake Residents' Association (DLRA) strongly condemns the despicable hate crime committed in our community, on Powell street. We stand in solidarity with our neighbour who has been victimized, and call upon the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We cannot allow such heinous behaviour in our neighbourhoods. The DLRA therefore requests that you and other community leaders make it clear that this kind of bigotry will not be tolerated in our city. In this endeavour we are ready to stand with you.

We must be vigilant against the scourge of racism and be prepared to confront it whenever it shows its ugly head. Please let us know if there is anything the DLRA can do support those who has been victimized by such behaviour.

Heron Park Community Association

Neighbours: You may have heard about an incident of vandalism in our Ward that is being categorized as a hate crime. The Heron Park Community Association strongly condemns all such acts of violence and hate. 

As part of the City of Ottawa, Heron Park is home to the whole wonderful spectrum of  human diversity.  All are welcome and all have the right to safety and respect.  We invite you to stand with any person or group feeling vulnerable.  We are stronger together. Together!

Two more park planners deployed to help clear Ottawa's project backlog

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is beefing up its team of park planners and assigning the work to one department to clear a backlog of projects.

Two more park planning positions are being created through the City of Ottawa’s corporate reorganization.

Dan Chenier, the general manager of parks and recreation, said his department will now take charge of all park planning, rather than having the responsibility straddle the parks department and planning department.

“One of the things the city manager heard is we have so many projects now that there’s a backlog of projects,” Chenier said in an interview. “We need more capacity to turn out more projects more quickly.”

Chenier said the backlog of projects has been a “chronic condition.”

There are about 17 projects in the queue.

Sixteen park planners will now be in charge of projects through inception, construction and maintenance.

The amount of work required is significant, considering there are 1,835 play structures, 478 sports fields and 284 ball diamonds in the city’s portfolio. There are 4,135 hectares of parkland that need monitoring for upkeep, with more being added as the city grows.

“The new opportunity is we have a larger pool (of planners) to spread this work around,” Chenier said.

There is a high demand from councillors to create parks, replace playground equipment or make repairs.

Each of the 23 wards has a reserve fund collecting “cash-in-lieu of parkland.” Developers must provide parkland in new projects, and if they can’t, they have to pay cash to the city. Sixty per cent of the money stays in a parkland fund for the ward and the rest goes into a citywide fund.

The city’s last cash-in-lieu of parkland update at the end of September showed there was $11 million spread across the 23 ward accounts. Some wards have much more money than others, especially those areas with significant development, such as the downtown. Together with the citywide fund and a special fund for the Preston-Carling district, there’s more than $14 million in cash-in-lieu of parkland accounts.

The city was temporarily funding two parks planners from the cash-in-lieu of parkland funds to help with the backlog of projects, but the temporary nature of the contracts led to a high turnover in staff.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko has been pushing the city to address the lack of resources for creating new parks.

“I made it a top priority when I met with the city manager,” Chernushenko said.