Losing Independence

My friend told me a story that left us both in tears.

An elderly man—who spent his career working in our community—had come into the medical clinic where she works to be assessed for his ability to keep his driver’s licence. Prior to his appointment, he told my friend how his career had been worked on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, that he feared losing his licence and that his wife’s health was failing. She sincerely wished him luck as he walked down the hall into the examination room.

Some time later, she knew the news the clinician gave him wasn’t what he wanted to hear. She could hear shouting, things being thrown, the man threatening to end his own life.

As she recounted the experience, we both wept.

This man’s story has stuck with me and has kept me thinking about how we plan our cities, communities and lives. Sure, this man may have chosen to live somewhere where driving was his only option for mobility, as many have done and continue to do, but it’s our collective responsibility to ask for better designed communities that enable multiple modes of transportation. It’s a question of resilience.

In Oliver, we have multiple seniors residences. Our neighbourhood is built for a relatively resilient life; we have access to public transit, new bike infrastructure and lovely tree-lined streets that are a joy to walk along. Our residential neighbourhood has a number of services within it.

But if you live in one of these facilities— Manoir St. Joachim, Kiwanis, Ansgar, or Our Parents’ Home—you will often find you have to cross Jasper or 104 Avenue. Both are seven-lane roads with drivers that are prone to speeding.

Research shows this can be a barrier that keeps people trapped at home.

We are gaining a better understanding of how social isolation can severely impact our mental and physical health. People who lose their ability to drive often lose their independence. They can lose their social connections. And then they may lose their health. Urban design and transportation planning have far reaching impacts on our lives, some of which we may not realize until we are facing a driver’s licence suspension.

If you could no longer drive—maybe ever again—how much would your life change? Would you be able to meet all your needs? It’s an interesting thought experiment. Try it. And then advocate for a better community for all.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League

OCL Fall Events

Oliver Bike Club Wednesdays for September, 6pm

You have one more month to enjoy this popular OCL program! Destinations and themes vary each week. All levels of riders encouraged! Meet at Oliver Park, 118 Street and 103 Avenue

Picnic in the Park Thursdays for September, 6-8pm

Weekly picnics roving to each of our parks. Stop by for some lemonade, games, OCL membership and to meet your neighbours. Bring your family, friends, pets and snacks. Parks in Oliver – see social media

Oliver Reads September 17, 6pm

Our first book club meeting will discuss “Birdie” by Tracey Linberg. Get your free membership to the Edmonton Public Library for a hard copy or e-book version. Stay tuned for details on book two! MEC com- munity room, 11904 104 Avenue

Community League Day September 15, 12-4pm

Join the OCL as we participate in the city-wide celebration of community leagues. A beer garden, barbecue and games in our beautiful park round out the day. Kitchener Park, 114 Street at 103 Avenue

Walking Pub Crawl of Oliver September 21, Oct 19, & Nov 16, 8pm
Join your neighbours, meet with new and old friends and explore some local pubs. Locations TBD; please check up on OCL’s Facebook page. Meet at Oliver Park, 118 Street and 103 Avenue

Oliver Halloween Trick or Treat | October 31

OCL helps bring trick or treating to our high density neighbourhood. Keep an eye out on OCL’s Facebook page and newsletter to learn more about how you can participate.

Program and Events Committee | September 25, October 23, & November 27, 7pm

Come volunteer with the OCL and help plan events for the community. BRU, 11965 Jasper Avenue

Civics Committee September 10, October 9*, November 13*, 7pm

This highly engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. *Tuesday. Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street

OCL Summer Events

Walking Pub Crawl

Join your neighbors and explore the nearby bars — and make new friends in your community.
Locations TBD; please check up on OCL’s Facebook page. Meet at Oliver Park, 8pm


Bike Club

We will meet on Wednesday evenings at 6pm at the Oliver Park to go for bike rides around the river valley. More details can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OliverBikeClub/ Meet at Oliver Park, 6pm


Civics Committee

Join this fully engaged committee that meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. Grace Lutheran Church,
9907 114 Street


Paul Kane Park opening

Come to the official opening. There will be some light refreshments and activities. From 5pm to 7pm


Pancake Breakfast

Always our most popular event. Come celebrate Canada Day with your fellow neighbours. 9am to 11am. Location to be announced.

Re-creating Recreation

Now that the snow has melted there are so many reasons to get out of your pad (this issue is chock-full of ideas). Go outside and enjoy.

But in Oliver, where the vast majority of us do not have backyards, public and private spaces take on new yard-like aspects.

Where do you find yourself heading on a hot summer day? Maybe a public park or a private patio? Out on our main streets, Jasper Avenue and 124 Street? In our bike
lanes and multi-use trails? On the deck of Oliver Pool or in a place of worship?

About 20,000 people call Oliver home.

Breathe, the City of Edmonton’s 2017 strategy on open spaces, indicates that Oliver has less open space available for residents than in any other part of the city. Oliver also
hosts one of the most diverse populations in Edmonton. This means that not only do we need more community spaces, but a one-size-fits-all solution will not work here. We don’t just need spaces and places to be physically active, or that cater to one age group. We need to nurture the whole person — physically, intellectually, spiritually — and we need to nurture our connections to one another.

Coun. Scott McKeen recently requested a report on the engagement strategy and process for assessing the need for recreation, cultural, education and community space in Oliver. The Oliver Community League will be working with the city to ensure the proposed process will capture our diverse and numerous voices — and we will be pushing to see an engagement and needs assessment for Oliver that will begin the process of developing much-needed community places, spaces and services.

Speaking for my own approach to this challenge, last June, I joined November Project Canada (see page 16), a free outdoor fitness group. This past winter was one of our longest on record in Edmonton, and being part of this supportive community helped me to push through the freezing conditions and achieve my fitness goals.

This is a community that shows up for each other year-round, no matter the weather. They motivate me to push forward and through accountability to one another.

Like November Project, Oliver is stronger when we pull together as a supportive community — we need your ideas, your initiatives and your support. If you have a vision for the future of this neighbourhood, share it. We are all accountable for creating what we see around us. While it could take years to see significant changes, we must be motivated now and into the future to speak
out about what we need in our neighbourhood.

Lisa Brown
President, Oliver Community League

Design Can Limit Safety

IN FEBRUARY 2014, I TORE TWO ligaments, my meniscus and tendons while skiing. I would two require surgeries. I spent six weeks on crutches in 2014, as well as five weeks in 2015 and four weeks in 2016, all during winter months. The injury allowed me, if only for a short time, to see our city through the eyes of a woman with a disability.

It wasn’t until our board started discussing concepts for this issue of The Yards that I recognized how vulnerable I was while I recovered. I couldn’t put weight on my right leg so I couldn’t run. Being an able-bodied woman, I had always taken comfort knowing I could at least sprint if I had to escape an unsafe situation — a tactic I’ve had to use in the past. But on crutches, if someone had followed me home or tried to hurt me, I would have had little defense. Given that it was winter, I was often traveling in the dark, too.

Perhaps naïvely, I did not reflect on my safety at these times. Still, it became apparent Edmonton is not disability friendly. My only modes of transportation were walking (or more accurately, crutching) and public transit. And Edmonton’s design flaws became apparent: Ramps from the sidewalk to the crosswalk often deposited me right onto the roadway, if a ramp existed at all. Pedestrian-triggered crossing lights often had “beg buttons,” and these were placed so inconveniently that it was difficult for me to flick the button and cross the street in time. Streets coated in ice and snow made my movements treacherous and risky. Even door power-assist buttons were awkwardly placed, resulting in me being hit by a door more than once.

Many argue city designers should adopt a limited-mobility lens in order to accommodate not only those with disabilities, but seniors, children, parents with strollers, and people with carts and walkers. Doing so, some argue, will see cities create pedestrian bump outs, ramps at every crossing, shorter crossing distances on roads and the accommodation of pedestrians through construction zones.

I agree with this view. From improved sidewalk lighting to land-use planning policies that increase the number of people on the street, there are numerous way to make our cities safer — for all. We’ve all been young and, hopefully, we’ll all be old. Our mobility will eventually be limited. That’s why inclusive design and policies must include each and every one of us.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League

OCL Spring Events

Civics Committee| MARCH 12, APRIL 9, MAY 14

Join this fully engaged committee that meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. 7pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.


Events and Programs Committee | MARCH 21, APRIL 18, MAY 16 

If you like event planning, this is the committee for you. 6pm, Nosh Café, 10235 124 Street.


Annual General Meeting | APRIL 18

Review financials, vote in new directors, learn more about OCL and what we’re up to. Mix and mingle with neighbours. Registration starts at 6pm, program at 7pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.


Balcony Gardening Workshop | APRIL 22, 29

Bring your balcony or small outdoor space to life! Learn space planning and design, choosing appropriate plants, creating productive balconies, and more! A small $5 fee goes towards our garden Capital Fund, and donations are always greatly appreciated. Location To Be Announced


“May the Fourth Be With You” Potluck | MAY 4

Join the Oliver Community League and Grace Lutheran Church for a spring potluck. Bring your favourite dish to share with friends and neighbours. 6pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.

Best in Class

THIS ISSUE OF THE YARDS celebrates what makes central Edmonton an outstanding place to live, work and play. But while we applaud what already makes our community great, the Oliver Community League (OCL) also works to create public and private development that will better serve our neighbourhood in the future.

Here are just a few of our successes.

In 2014, when city administration published its recommended capital budget projects for the following four years, Jasper Avenue was only scheduled to be repaved. The OCL immediately organized a team to explain to City Council the importance of consulting with Oliver residents to create a new design for Jasper Avenue. Council unanimously voted in favour of OCL’s recommended approach. In late 2015, the Imagine Jasper Avenue consultation initiative launched. And this summer, the city rolled out a first-of-its-kind, four-month installation on the avenue, piloting some of the proposed design features.

On the private side of things, our league continues to work to be nimble and agile negotiators, while maintaining our standards for process and good governance. While there are some land re-zonings in Oliver that are not best in class, there are nonetheless examples of developers improving design based on OCL recommendations. I’m happy to recommend these developers for working in partnership with our community.

For example, in 2016, Devonshire Properties proposed a site-specific re-zoning for a 14-storey tower on 118 Street, north of Jasper Avenue. The original design was typical of apartment buildings in Oliver — a single entrance on the main level and nothing else. The OCL Civics Committee asked the developer to consider adding townhouses on the main floor to improve street engagement, and also bolster housing choice in Oliver.

I was pleased with the developer’s reception of this feedback. Devonshire incorporated our requests into its design.

In the coming months, the OCL will draw on these experiences as we begin negotiations with Abbey Lane Homes and city administration over a proposal for the St. John’s School Site, south of Peace Garden Park. We will be pushing for maximum benefit to all residents of our neighbourhood.

When it comes to development, some communities have a reputation for opposing all of it. In Oliver, we do not do this. Instead, we have found it is more helpful to push for smart development that will better serve the community in the future rather than simply say no.

Lisa Brown
President, Oliver Community League

OCL Winter Events

Walking Pub Crawl

Meet with new and old friends at the hall every month before walking to pre-determined locations to enjoy Oliver nightlife. Meet in Oliver Park (between 104 Avenue and 103 Avenue, 118 and 119 streets) by the playground. No pub crawl in December.

Civics Committee

This fully engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. Grace Lutheran Church. 9907 114 Street, enter by grey door on the east side.

Make Something Oliver Idea Incubator

Come help us dream up projects for our Oliver-building project.
6pm – 8pm, Brewsters, 11620 104 Avenue.


OCL Fall Events

Walking Pub Crawl
Meet with friends new and old, and walk
to pre-determined pub location to enjoy
the Oliver nightlife. Starts at 8 pm, meet in
Oliver Park by the playground. (note: no
pub crawl in December).

Municipal Election Forum
Ward 6 forum runs from 7-9 pm.
St. Joseph Catholic High School,
10830 – 109 Street.

Holiday Craft Market
Get your holiday shopping done in one place
and have league volunteers wrap your gifts in
exchange for donation to our hall redevelop-
ment. 9am-2pm, Location to be announced.

Holiday Potluck
Bring your favourite holiday dish and join
friends and neighbours for a hearty meal.
Eating together is a wonderful way to build
community and celebrate the season. Runs
5-8 pm at Grace Lutheran Church gymnasium,
at 9907 – 114 Street.

Civics Committee
This highly engaged committee meets on the
second Monday of the month to discuss develop-
ments in Oliver. Runs from 7 pm. Grace Lutheran
Church social room, at 9907-114 Street (enter by
east grey door).*changed to Tuesday for October.

Events and Programs Committee
If you like event planning, this is the committee
for you. Runs at 6:00 pm, Nosh Cafe, 10235
124 Street.

My Journey to YIMBY

The first time I heard ‘Yes in my backyard’ was at a workshop for the proposed rezoning of the Molson Brewery site. It was 2013. I had just moved back to Edmonton from eight months in the United Kingdom, where I had fallen in love with narrow roads, centuries-old buildings and the pubculture. But within a few weeks of being home, the Oliver Community League hosted a workshop in response to the Molson Brewery proposal, which was essentially a higher-end suburban strip mall.

The workshop catalyzed OCL’s strategic plan, as the 60-plus attendees determined what we value in Oliver. Little surprise, then, that at the City of Edmonton’s public meeting for the Molson site proposal, hosted a couple months later, resident after resident stood up and rather than saying “No,” instead asked the developer for more. Some literally said “Yes in my backyard.”

“Give us mixed use development,” some said.

“We’re fine with high-rises — this is the perfect site for them,” others said.

“Give us less parking, we actually don’t want surface parking lots at all,” some said.

“Give us high quality pedestrian access and amenities. Give us buildings that face both the Oliver and Queen Mary Park communities. Give us a development that allows better connection between the two neighbour- hoods,” many said.

They said yes.
Then those with power said no.
The Brewery District officially opened more than a year ago and new businesses continue to open there. But while we are thrilled to have another grocery store in our midst, for me the development falls short, for all the reasons I’ve just discussed. The Oliver Community League certainly welcomes all of the businesses into our community and we wish them every success.

It represents a missed opportunity. The community’s vision for this significant development was shared, and ignored. Having the community stand up and ask for more, ask for the envelope to be pushed, even ask for more density and less parking, was unique. And was ignored.

Still, while saying “Yes in my backyard” did not produce the results we were looking for, this time, that Oliver spoke of what it wanted in unison started something. Residents have become more active in shaping the change in their community. And yes, that’s exactly what OCL wants to foster in our backyard.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League