UBC alum and resident starts petition to block planned removal of trees on campus

When Su Alice Wang created a petition to call on UBC to prevent a proposed residence expansion from removing 31 trees, she hoped to get 100 signatures. In a little less than two weeks, it has garnered almost 19,000.

The trees are located on land owned by Carey Theological College, a non-profit theological school unaffiliated with UBC. The College submitted a development permit application to UBC in January to build two new residences, which will be reviewed by the UBC Development Permit Board in March after undergoing public consultation.

Wang, a UBC alum and resident, can see those trees from her window. After seeing the signs on the proposed development site, she realized that it would result in the removal of multiple trees and was compelled to take action. Mature trees, she said, are foundational to ecosystems.

“I felt if I didn’t speak about this, I wasn’t sure who was going to,” she said.

Having lived at UBC for 10 years, she has noticed an increase in development and tree removal. This trend, she believes, is why her petition has attracted so much attention.

“I think [the signatories] resonate with the fact that these trees represent kind of the ongoing development that UBC has been taking for the past, you know, 10 to 15 years,” she said.

Wang plans to attend UBC’s public open house on the Carey College expansion on Wednesday, February. 16, where she hopes that the petition will add significant weight to her request that the College neither remove or otherwise adversely affect the trees with its development.

In 2019, UBC cancelled plans to construct a new Arts Student Centre on the UBC Bosque — the grove of trees next to the Life Building — following public outcry. The completed centre opened across the street from Buchanan E in November 2021.

Paul Williams, the development manager working for Carey College, said that addressing the need for student housing at UBC is another key issue people should consider.

“[Carey Hall has] now decided … they want to help address the need for student housing. And as such, unfortunately, some trees need to be knocked down,” he said.

“How many PhD, masters [and] undergrad [students] are in need of housing at UBC with the waitlist as long as it is currently?” Williams added.

The college has committed to replacing what trees they remove two-to-one — more than UBC’s policy of one-to-one tree replacement. Sixty-eight new trees would be planted in place of the 31 that are planned for removal, according to Williams.

UBC is currently reviewing and taking public consultation on this development application, according to Matthew Ramsey, the director of university affairs for UBC Media Relations.

“Feedback from the community will be considered along with staff technical analysis prior to approval,” he said in a written statement to The Ubyssey.