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UNA and UBC Clash Over University’s Land Use Plan

Directors say UNA sidelined during consultation process.

The UNA pointedly refused to formally participate in a recent UBC-run public hearing on its ambitious and controversial land use plan.

The UNA board directed Richard Watson, its chair, to refuse to participate in the Nov. 7 hearing on UBC’s Campus Vision 2050 land use plan because of the university’s decision to “explicitly and unaccountably prohibit the adjustment of neighbourhood densities”, along with other aspects of the plan.

The decision follows a longstanding concern of the association of being sidelined by the university during high-level decision-making.

“We fail,” the board said in a Oct. 25 submission to the hearing, “to see the point of a public hearing that precludes changes based on public input. Residents want and deserve governance that gives them opportunities to question policy makers and hold them politically accountable.”

During their Oct. 16 meeting, UBC’s Board of Governors referred the plan to a public hearing as mandated under provincial law.

The board is expected to discuss the plan during a Dec. 5 meeting in light of what was said at the public hearing. The board will then have the option to send the plan to the provincial government for adoption, or it can decline to endorse it.

While UNA’s board took issue with the procedural ruIes for the public hearing, UBC officials say the Board of Governors is allowed to change proposed neighbourhood densities, up or down. But that would require another public hearing, which would necessitate a review of the results of that second hearing by the board. Only then and upon approval would the provincial government—led by Premier David Eby—Point Grey MLA and Wesbrook resident—weigh in.

The majority of submissions sent to the public hearing were critical of the plan. The proposed population densities and the proportion of rental units to leasehold sales have been a major concern of critics, who have called on the provincial government to reject it.

While the UNA did not formally participate in the hearing, director Murray McCutcheon made a verbal submission, where he said the plan is premised on “profits over priorities that serve the public interest”. He also criticized the university’s “lack of accountability” and said the UNA has been “marginalized” during the consultation process.

Jen McCutcheon, the elected representative on Metro Vancouver council for the UBC and endowment lands, told the hearing the plan would see population densities in the university neighbourhoods that would be nearly double the density in downtown Vancouver—37,000 people per square kilometre compared to the current downtown density of 18,832 people per square kilometre.

The plan foresees a 2050 population of some 37,000 people, more than double the current population of 15,0000.

The UNA’s full submission to the public hearing can be found here, and the full text of director McCutcheon’s speech here.


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