University Neighbourhoods Association calls for pause on Campus Vision planning for climate action study

The University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA) has a different vision in mind for Campus Vision 2050, the long-term land planning project UBC is currently developing.

The UNA, the representative organization of the campus’ residential neighbourhoods, released a newsletter on November 10 containing feedback for the new project, including criticisms of the plan’s sustainability measures. The UNA argued that elements like the construction of up to 30 new towers directly contradict UBC’s Climate Action Plan.

The UNA raised its concerns with the Board of Governors’ Advisory Committee on Campus Vision 2050 and Housing Action Review in a meeting last week, where the principles of the document were discussed. At that meeting, Michael White, associate vice-president of Campus and Community Planning, said UBC has not said it would construct 30 new towers.

Among other positions, the UNA called for a pause to the Campus Vision planning process “until a comprehensive Climate Action Study and Plan that includes the University Neighbourhoods” can be completed. UBC currently has a climate action plan for the university’s neighbourhoods, but it has not been updated since 2013.

At the Board committee meeting, UBC said it is currently reviewing this neighbourhood climate plan.

According to Dr. Eagle Glassheim, a member of the association’s Board of Directors and UBC professor, the document’s feedback was based on the work of a committee, town hall meetings and a survey to recognize constituency needs.

“We’ve been asking UBC a lot of questions," he said in an interview. "We’ve been asking them for data about affordable housing, data related to finances … we asked for information about the Climate Action Plan [2030] and how it would apply to the neighbourhoods, and that’s where we started to get concerned."

Glassheim said the UNA and UBC agree on the broad principles of climate responsibility and housing affordability.

“Where the rubber hits the road, as you might say, is how they implement those principles and weigh them against the other,” he said.

“By moving ahead with the process without preparing a lot of these important studies, I think it’s making it hard for us to weigh the options being put forward.”

When asked for a response to the concerns laid out in the UNA’s statement in an interview, White, said, “We’re more than taking it into consideration. Ecology, biodiversity, housing affordability … it’s fully embracing all these principles. What we’re saying is you can grow, and you can grow responsibly and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as you grow.”

White said the UNA's feedback helps strengthen elements of Campus Vision 2050, and that bringing these issues to UBC’s attention proves useful

“There’s always different opinions in a community planning process,” said White. “There’s a diverse array of opinions on how to address issues.”

But he said the community has had its say in the overarching process.

“We’ve been engaging with thousands of people. That includes students, faculty, residents on campus, the Musqueam … it’s the most expensive engagement process we’ve ever undertaken.”