Neighbourhood Climate Action Plan engagement process addresses campus development, green space and climate adaptation

Campus and Community Planning (C+CP) launched their engagement process for the Neighborhood Climate Action Plan (NCAP) on October 17, which runs until November 3.

The engagement is to provide C+CP with feedback about how UBC’s neighborhoods should grow as the climate changes.

The NCAP overlaps with UBC’s 2021 Climate Action Plan 2030 but addresses climate adaptation and greenhouse gas reductions in the neighborhoods around UBC, such as Westbrook and Hawthorne. This area is represented by the University Neighbourhood Association (UNA), who have previously raised concerns that UBC’s ambitious development targets might eclipse sustainability and affordability.

On October 11, the Board of Governors heard the updated draft of the Land Use Plan, the document that regulates campus’ ten-year development agenda. The UNA released a statement criticizing the Plan’s development goals, including building 20 new towers without assessing their environmental impact on UBC’s residential neighborhoods.

According to UNA director Richard Watson, UBC had not done studies or set realistic targets for greenhouse gas emissions from new buildings and residents or for preserving biodiversity and green space. The UNA previously asked for Campus Vision to be halted until after a climate action study was done.

NCAP is that study.

“We don't think they are going far enough, but they have addressed our concerns in many areas,” said Watson.

One of the UNA’s key issues with the Land Use Plan is how development on campus will reduce green space and ecological stability. Campus Vision 2050, UBC’s long-term land use plan, calls for 33,000 new beds on campus by 2050 and 20 per cent more usable floorspace.

“Green space was one of the most significant, if not the most significant area of concern,” said Watson, reflecting on feedback from UNA residents.

The UNA statement said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 0.9 to 5 hectares of green space per 1,000 people — but the Land Use Plan allocates only 1.1 hectares per 1,000 people.

“[When] people are able to access green space, then they’re happier, healthier, and more engaged in community,” said Watson. “We're hoping for adequate green space within the developing communities.”

According to C+CP Associate Vice-President Michael White, the WHO comparison is misleading, since residents will still have access to adjacent green spaces, such as Pacific Spirit Park, and other integrated green space on campus.

“Looking at that one standard in isolation isn't actually accurate to what is available and accessible to residents on campus,” said White.

The community engagement process provides an opportunity for residents to weigh in on the green space issue and others. C+CP also wants feedback on emission reductions and adapting neighborhoods for the weather pattern shifts caused by climate change.

Over the summer, a UNA workshop at Westbrook tried to understand community concerns around the climate crisis.

According to the Community Workshop Summary Report, residents were concerned about staying cool during extreme heat and about preserving biodiversity. They also requested more convenient and clear ways to reduce waste.

Both Watson and C+CP Director of Sustainability and Engineering John Madden said that people expressed a need for more buildings retrofitted for cooling via heat pumps or air-conditioning.

“The heat dome impacts was one thing that we heard, that we need to be much more responsive to the new realities of climate change and addressing issues around thermal comfort,” said Madden.

NCAP is engaging with the UNA, UBC Properties Trust and the general campus community — including students and other residents of the University Endowment Lands.

“The challenge is to get good input from a good variety of residents,” said Watson. He added this requires reaching students and people with less English fluency, who, according to Watson, are often underrepresented in urban planning compared to older, whiter and wealthier community members.

The engagement process includes lower-commitment options, including a survey, as well as workshops and booths at neighborhood events.

People can also attend an information session today from 4-6 p.m., and a Public Hearing on November 7.

“I’m really pleased that the university is taking up a Neighborhood Climate Action Plan in addition to its Climate Action Plan, because I believe that there are some distinctive needs that would otherwise go unaddressed without it,” said Watson.

This article was updated on November 7 to reflect the proper allocation number of green space in the Land Use Plan. The Ubyssey regrets this error.