LUP Amendments: Not as Advertised

The Public Hearing for the Land Use Plan amendments will be taking place tomorrow evening at 6 pm. Below is some info and thoughts on things that are contained in the amendment package.

First, a note on the entire LUP amendment process. Holding the LUP Public Hearing should not be permitted at this time, as there was no consultation on the actual LUP amendments. This was best described in a letter to Maria Harris in early November:

UBC hasn’t produced a draft LUP yet. It follows that all of the public consultation activities to date (open houses, workshops, etc) have been taking place in a vacuum. UBC should be required to publish the draft LUP and then provide a reasonable period and opportunity for the public to review and comment on the plan. UBC should be required to show that they take those comments seriously and adjust the plan accordingly.

-Dave Forsyth, board member of the Pacific Spirit Park Society

In fact, this type of consultation is required by both the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act, and a ministerial order (M229) issued in August. However, the consultation events UBC held dealt only with themes, not the actual amendments, and should not be considered adequate. As an AMS exec originally said, and I repeated in the Ubyssey, it’s like, instead of handing in an essay to your professor, you only hand in an outline. It’s not what was asked for, there’s no actual content, and a failing grade would be deserved.

In many cases throughout the consultation, it was not clear from the material presented what the actual amendments would be, and feedback was gathered in situations where more specific information was being sought, but not provided. In other cases, the amendments being proposed are different from what was put forward during consultation, with a few major examples covered below. Proceeding to a public hearing on amendments that were not revealed until the last minute, or which were vague or misrepresented during the consultation process should not be accepted.

That said, here’s a more in depth look at some more specific topics.

Campus Population (“Regional Context Statement”)

Here is a breakdown of campus population estimates which are appearing in the Land Use Plan, in a section called the “Regional Context Statement”.

Current Population Estimate in current LUP (2021) Estimates in LUP Revisions (2021)
Family Housing 8,000 10,700 12,500
Student Beds 8,500 7,300 10,000
Total 16,500 18,000 22,500

The 2021 population is slated to increase by 25%. In addition, while background documents discuss population estimates at build out in 2038 (also increasing by >20%), these are not included or addressed in the LUP. Most troubling, these revised population estimates were never put forward to gather community feedback during any of the consultation undertaken thus far.

Population estimates represent one of the most fundamental aspects of the LUP and a 25% increase will significantly affect future development on UBC’s campus. During the consultation process, the use of the “density transfer” terminology, in context, implied that the overall, long-term population growth for campus would not be changing, simply that the location(s) of the developments would be altered. It turns out this is not the case and that it actually meant significant population increases.

The proposed changes to the Regional Context Statement have not been subject to any of the consultation required and should not be sent to public hearing until those conditions are fulfilled. This is not a small issue which can be easily overlooked. Population estimates represent one of the most fundamental aspects of the LUP and a 25% increase will significantly affect future development on UBC’s campus. It is a discussion that must occur.

Currently, students residents outnumber non-student residents on campus, barely. Assuming the university does fulfill its goal of housing 50% of FTEs on campus, the long-term plan calls for non-students living on campus to outnumber student residents by a ratio of 3:2. It could be as high as 2.4:1 if development of student residences is scaled back. There are many that will argue UBC is forgetting that students are the reason this university exists, and that students, as a secondary priority, will ultimately be viewed as guests on a campus that belongs to others.

Metro Vancouver has tried to raise this issue with limited success. It will be interesting to monitor whether or not they feel the revised Regional Context Statement is in line with their regional growth strategy, as previous reports have stated they are not consistent.

Gage South (“Area Under Review”)

Despite their best attempts to avoid it, C&CP has finally relented to having a discussion – later – about this area. But there are strings attached, as it contains this important caveat: “Should the area not be used for neighbourhood housing, the housing allocated to this area, approximately 28800 square metres in building(s) of six storeys, will be transferred to another part of campus.”

Firstly, the amount of housing assigned to this area is grossly inflated. The Gage South Neighbourhood Plan clearly states: “Gage South comprises 12,005 m2 of land area for residential use. The CCP assigns 19,207 m2 of gross building area (GBA) for up to 207 units.”

The discrepancy between the 19,207 m2 called for in the neighbourhood plan, and the 28,800 m2 C&CP claims is assigned to the area has not been explained.

Secondly, once the current LUP amendments go through, there will be almost nowhere to transfer this housing to, without putting it in the academic core. It may turn out to be a very difficult condition to fulfill.

Lastly, the university is saying that non-student housing must be built at all costs. The goal of making this area into a functional part of campus is secondary to ensuring they are allowed to build housing.

Unfortunately, as a result of Bijan’s meddling the AMS’s position is summarized as follows: “Subsequent meetings resulted in AMS support for designation as ‘Area Under Review’.” In reality, Un-e-coRn meant to express to the university that the support was conditional and that they viewed this designation merely as was merely a first step towards academic designation, not as a satisfactory resolution.

Keep in mind, all that has been agreed to is a discussion, at a later date, with significant strings attached. C&CP had to be repeatedly chided by students since the beginning of this process, and for years before it began in order to reach this point. This consultation process has been one in which discussion has been avoided if at all possible.

University Boulevard Area (“Village Centre Academic”)

The proposed amendments in the section around U-Blvd eliminates the area as a “Neighbourhood” but retains a large amount of housing and commercial for the area. In fact, based on the proposed uses in the area, with the exception of the dentistry school, there is nothing overtly academic contained there. It’s housing and stores, along with the New SUB and Alumni Centre. In fact, the section’s previous name was “University Commercial”.

The most worrying aspect that building heights have quietly been relaxed.

Consultation Question: “Changing the maximum building height in the University Boulevard neighbourhood commercial area from five storeys to six storeys. (…) Do you support this proposed change to the Land Use plan?”

Proposed Amendment: “A building height of 6 storeys will be permitted along University Boulevard, with flexibility to exceed that number of storeys for design or program reasons, to a maximum of 8 storeys.”

There’s no way to describe this change diplomatically; it is really, really sleazy. The consultation question is clear that a maximum height of 6 storeys is being proposed, not 8. So why, then, will the amendment make it possible to build 8 storey buildings in this area?

If the need for more flexibility was required beyond the 6-storey limit was planned, that should have been made clear. In the consultation question, it states: “This change allows construction of (…) taller institutional buildings where required,” implying that the change from a 5- to 6-storey maximum will already grant UBC the desired flexibility. This change at the last minute is a manipulation of the process.

Pacific Spirit Park

As quoted above, the Pacific Spirit Park Society has expressed their dissatisfaction with the LUP amendment process, and the lack of specificity in the amendments themselves. There is also concern that UBC does not see the preservation of the park as a priority and there is legitimate reason for concern: one of the proposed amendments is to delete the phrase “The natural integrity of Pacific Spirit Regional Park will be a highly valued part of the community.”

It’s not clear why this phrase would be deleted, but if anyone is wondering whether or not UBC still considers the natural integrity of the park to be highly valued, this should give an indication.

The other aspect park-lovers were most concerned about were maximum building heights. The amendment reads like this: “The maximum height is 53 metres and it may be increased to 65m for certain sites subject to confirmation of these locations during the Neighbourhood Plan process.”

In other words, the maximum is now 65m, but that fact is not stated outright. Just like U-Blvd, defining a maximum is completely nonsensical when there are explicit provisions about how to exceed the stated maximum. While this is better than what was proposed during the consultation (essentially eliminating the maximum height altogether), the new 65m maximum should have been made public during the consultations. The concept of raising maximum building heights did not receive community support during consultation.

Another part of the same amendment states “Housing will generally be at least 6 storeys.” The wording used during consultation was about whether to “allow six-storey wood-frame construction”, which this does, but then goes a step further by saying that this should be the norm. Once again, the ideas put forth during the consultation were misleading about what the actual amendment would entail.

UBC Farm (“Green Academic”)

As expected, the farm will be part of the “Green Academic” designation, which makes direct reference to Cultivating Place as a guiding document. This is still confusing, as Cultivating Place actually calls for the area to be zoned as “UBC Farm”.

During the consultation, the online workbook asked people what their preferred option was for the farm, while simultaneously eliminating the preferred option, “UBC Farm”, as a choice. Despite this, feedback has consistently shown that the “UBC Farm” designation is preferable, and the Friends of the UBC Farm still believe that UBC can do better than Green Academic, though it’s better than being slated for housing.

The arguments why UBC Farm wasn’t a viable option were weak. The argument that the “Farm” portion carried some pre-existing implications never made sense, since the designation would have to be defined, and that definition could dispel any inappropriate implications of the “Farm” terminology. A secondary argument, that creating a specialized designation went against the desire to simplify and reduce the designations on campus, isn’t logical in the context of the “Village Centre Academic” designation. This designation is precisely what is supposed to be avoided: a specialized definition for a small, particular area of campus.


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  1. The wood-frame maximum is still 6 storeys, it’s only in the University Boulevard area that a consideration of 8 storeys will be entertained, and that is because they will be concrete buildings. BC Building Code prohibits wood-frame buildings being taller than 6 storeys.

    Posted by Jeremy | November 29, 2010, 6:38 pm
  2. Anyone know what happened at the meeting last night?

    Posted by Lionel | December 1, 2010, 8:33 am
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