August 14, 2022

Opinion: College board property are weak because of low public consciousness. Whereas the Queen Elizabeth Annex comes first, with out higher planning, all faculties are in danger.

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Lately, I used to be dismayed to be taught of a dwelling historical past museum that provides Vancouverers a first-hand have a look at the worst planning practices of the Nineteen Fifties. This window into the previous is the Vancouver College Board.

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As a professor of planning at UBC, I’ve encountered an archaic strategy to VSB planning because of its efforts to handle faculty lands, beginning with Queen Elizabeth Annex, a French immersion faculty on the West Aspect of Vancouver the place considered one of my kids is in 2nd grade. and the opposite admission to kindergarten.

The VSB’s antiquated strategy to planning is highlighted by its lack of ability to plan for the long run. Whereas most authorities companies plan for 25 to 30 years, the VSB Lengthy Time period Plan solely seems ahead seven years. As well as, by focusing solely on authorized growth transferring on to development, the plan guidelines out a lot of future city development. Excluded tasks embrace just about all indigenous developments akin to Jericho Lands and Sen̓áḵw.

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A lot of the long run growth of UBC, the place the inhabitants is predicted to double by 2041, is out of the query. Plans for densifying Broadway and different highways are additionally dominated out.

Consequently, Vancouver VSB bears little resemblance to an actual metropolis. It’s problematic that these plans, which reduce recruitment sooner or later, justify embezzling tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} of public property within the case of the Queen Elizabeth Annex alone. Opposite to the VSB’s plan, the census exhibits that UBC and the neighborhood close to the annex are among the many metropolis’s quickest rising areas. Fortunately for VSB, this development just isn’t being seen in its various Vancouver.

The depreciation of the VSB of the long run just isn’t all that smells of the previous. The board’s announcement of a vote to maneuver into a quick session part on the sale or lease of the Queen Elizabeth Annex was made in January, on the top of the pandemic. The announcement was made shortly earlier than the shut of enterprise on Friday for a gathering the next Monday. Not giving advance discover of conferences is an instance of a scheduling tactic that’s misplaced in 2022 however important to any public coverage reenactor of the Nineteen Fifties.

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VSB employees and trustees stated the disposal of the Queen Elizabeth extension was motivated by provincial strain round a brand new faculty within the Olympic Village, which they are saying the NDP, which didn’t fund the faculties promised within the final election, refuses to fund with out this disposal. They argue that that is additionally brought on by a lawsuit by the Conseil Scolaire Francophone, a legally separate provincial physique that teaches native French audio system.

However in VSB’s retrospective model of planning, there isn’t a info on these “confidential” issues. The Queen Elizabeth Annex Father or mother Advisory Committee used freedom of data requests to seek out details about VSB resolution making. However the price of such requests is exorbitant, within the hundreds of {dollars}. That is one other anti-democratic retroplanning software that makes use of processes designed to extend accountability to create procedural obstacles.

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The menace extends far past the Queen Elizabeth Annex. In 2015, VSB employed a guide to evaluate the revenue potential of its properties. They concluded: “The mission workforce has recognized short-term disposal websites that provide VSB the potential to generate important income via rental or sale.” VSB turns current faculties into piggy banks. However solely when it comes to short-term VSB pondering, with plans that don’t keep in mind the long run, it makes monetary sense to show quickly rising land into money on the peak of inflation.

As with BC Rail, when the obscure Crown company was reportedly shortly dumped, the divestment of VSB faculties entails a gross violation of public belief. College board property are weak because of low public consciousness. Whereas the Queen Elizabeth Annex comes first, with out higher planning, all faculties are in danger. The stakes are excessive. Simply 9 years after the VSB proposed faculty closures in 2010, six of the 12 faculties slated for closure had been in excessive attendance areas. The VSB’s failure to plan made it not possible for them to answer city change.

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Queen Elizabeth’s proposed disposal of the addition, which might be finalized in Might, is a window into the worst planning practices of the previous. It’s within the curiosity of all Vancouver residents to cease faculty liquidations till the VSB commits itself to being a contemporary, publicly accountable company that takes the way forward for town’s kids significantly.

Michael Hooper is Affiliate Professor of Group and Regional Planning on the College of British Columbia.


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