Local Governance for the UBC Campus/UEL
Most urban areas in B.C. are incorporated as municipalities, with an elected mayor and council. The municipal government provides a range of services—such as water, sewage disposal, land use planning and, in some cases, policing. In addition, it imposes property taxes and user charges, and it enacts bylaws to regulate noise, parking and other matters.
The UBC campus and the University Endowment Lands are exceptions. Although these are urban areas with populations comparable to or larger than the populations of many municipalities, the local governance arrangements for them are unique. This page briefly describes the arrangements and then notes some past and current attempts to form all or a portion of the areas into a municipality or to have them become part of Vancouver.
The UBC campus consists of two parts: the residential UBC Neighbourhoods, which are located throughout the campus, and the Academic Campus, which includes most of the student housing. The local governance arrangements for these two parts are similar, but there is a significant difference.
While I have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, errors may have crept in. If you notice any errors, I would appreciate being informed of them.
To go to a specific section of this page, click on one of the following links:
- UBC Neighbourhoods
- UBC Academic Campus (Student Housing)
- University Endowment Lands
- Local Governance Reform
The UBC Neighbourhoods are the following five residential developments located on the UBC campus: Chancellor Place, East Campus, Hampton Place, Hawthorn Place, and Wesbrook Place (South Campus). This map shows the location of each neighbourhood. These neighbourhoods are quite new. Hampton Place was the first to be developed, starting in the early 1990s. The next was Hawthorn Place, from 2001 to 2007.
The powers and functions of a local government for the UBC Neighbourhoods are divided among several entities: the provincial government, UBC, the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA), and Metro Vancouver. As examples of this division of powers and functions:
- The province has arranged for the RCMP and the Vancouver fire department to provide policing and fire protection services (the same arrangements also apply with respect to the UBC Academic Campus and the UEL).
- UBC is responsible for the Land Use Plan applicable to the UBC Neighbourhoods, for individual neighbourhood plans, and for public consultations in relation to these plans. Amendments to the Land Use Plan are subject to the province's approval. Amendments to the regional context statement included in the Land Use Plan must be submitted to Metro Vancouver staff for review and comment.
- UBC is responsible generally for development, e.g., development and building regulations, development and building permits.
- UBC has the power to enact noise, parking and certain other rules, which it does on the advice of the UNA.
- The UNA is responsible for recreation and community services.
- Metro Vancouver has overall responsibility for emergency management plans and emergency response.
For more information on local government functions for the UBC Neighbourhoods, see the table I have prepared showing who performs each function and the sources of resident funding for the functions.
The UNA is an incorporated society formed in 2002. It has an eight-person Board of Directors that is responsible for the running of the UNA. Five of the directors are elected by UNA members, two are appointed by UBC and one is appointed by the Alma Mater Society. All residents of the UBC Neighbourhoods who are at least 18 years of age may become members of the UNA. Members who meet the residency requirements in the UNA's bylaws are eligible to vote for directors. The UNA has the responsibilities delegated to it by UBC. For more information on the UNA, see the fact sheet I have prepared.
Property owners in the UBC Neighbourhoods pay rural property tax and police tax to the provincial government. These taxes fund primarily police and fire services. In addition, owners pay a services levy to UBC pursuant to their leases. The levy funds many of the services provided by UBC and the UNA as well as the UNA's administration costs. The combination of the rural property tax, the police tax, and the services levy is analogous to property tax payable by property owners in a municipality. Property owners in the UBC Neighbourhoods also pay school tax, the TransLink levy, and certain other levies that are imposed on all property owners in the Metro Vancouver region.
The rate for the services levy is set each year so that the total amount of taxes and levies payable by a property owner is equal to the total amount of taxes and levies payable in respect of a property of identical assessed value situated in Vancouver. The services levy is held in a separate fund which is used solely for the benefit of residents of the UBC Neighbourhoods.
Academic Campus (Student Housing)
The Academic Campus consists of the whole of the UBC campus other than the UBC Neighbourhoods. Student housing is located principally on the Academic Campus.
The local governance arrangement for the Academic Campus is similar to that for the UBC Neighbourhoods, except that the UNA has no role. The powers and functions of a local government for the Academic Campus rest principally with UBC. UBC's authority derives, in part, from its ownership of the campus and in part from the powers given to UBC's Board of Governors by the University Act. The province and Metro Vancouver have the same responsibilities for the Academic Campus as they have for the UBC Neighbourhoods.
University Endowment Lands
The University Endowment Lands (UEL) are situated between the UBC campus and Vancouver. This map shows the location. In addition to an urban portion, the UEL includes most of Pacific Spirit Regional Park and a golf course. The UEL is much older than the UBC Neighbourhoods. Its development began around 1925.
The provincial government has always been the primary local government for the UEL. Most of its powers as a local government are currently set out in the University Endowment Land Act. These powers are similar to those of a municipality, and include the power to make bylaws and the power to levy property taxes. Metro Vancouver also has a few local government powers for the UEL, including overall responsibility for emergency management plans and emergency response.
The province has appointed a Manager who is responsible for the administration of the UEL. The Manager is assisted by a small staff. Residents provide input to the Manager through the Community Advisory Council (CAC). The CAC has seven members, who are also its directors. The members/directors are elected by those UEL residents and property owners who would be eligible to vote if the UEL were a municipality.
UEL property owners pay rural property tax, but at a special rate. Pursuant to the University Endowment Land Act, the rate is set each year so as to produce sufficient revenue to fund budgeted expenditures (taking into account other sources of revenue). UEL property owners also pay school tax, the TransLink levy, and certain other levies that are imposed on all property owners in the Metro Vancouver region. In addition, they pay provincial police tax.
Local Governance Reform
Since 1977, there have been several studies of local governance reform for all or part of the UBC campus/UEL. The reform options that have been considered are incorporation of all or part of the area as a municipality and inclusion of all or part of the area in the City of Vancouver. The only referendum that has been held was in 1995 in which voters rejected a proposal to incorporate the UEL and Hampton Place as a municipality.
The provincial government undertook a study of the UEL in 1977 that involved both land use and governance. The study resulted in an extensive two-volume report. No vote on governance followed the study, the reason apparently being because it was clear that a large majority of residents opposed a change in the governance arrangement.
At some point before May 1990, a UEL Restructure Committee was formed. The committee engaged an independent consultant to analyze various options for a local government as well as retention of the status quo. The consultant presented his analysis in a report dated May 1990. Three incorporation options were examined:
- a compact municipality consisting of the developed part of the UEL, a portion of Pacific Spirit Park, and Hampton Place (which was at the planning stage at the time);
- a compact municipality excluding Hampton Place; and
- a large municipality containing all of the UEL and the UBC campus.
The options for joining Vancouver considered in the report involved the same areas as the first and third incorporation options. Several newsletters were prepared and several public information meetings were held to present the findings of the study. A referendum was not held on the options because a number of outstanding policy matters remained to be resolved by the province.
The province resolved all the policy issues between 1990 and the end of 1994. The Restructure Committee, which now included Hampton Place residents, engaged the same consultant to examine a single option: the creation of a municipality consisting of the UEL (excluding Pacific Spirit Park) and Hampton Place, which was the only UBC neighbourhood at the time. The consultant presented a detailed report in January 1995. In early March 1995, a referendum was held in which UEL and Hampton Place voters were asked "Are you in favour of becoming a municipality, yes or no?" The formation of a municipality was rejected by a vote of 599 to 318.
In 1998, another committee to study governance was formed, consisting of seven members representing Metro Vancouver, UBC, Vancouver, UEL residents and UBC campus residents. The two principal options examined by this committee and the consultant that it engaged were incorporation of the UBC campus/UEL as a single municipality and inclusion of this area in Vancouver. The study ran from 1998 to early 2000. Five of the seven committee members concluded in favour of a modified status quo and so voters were not given an opportunity to vote on the options.
In late 2006 or early 2007, Metro Vancouver and UBC jointly requested the province to initiate a dialogue with stakeholders on an alternate governance system for the UBC campus/UEL. It appears that the province ignored or rejected this request.
From September 2011 until mid-2012, Metro Vancouver made a further attempt to initiate a dialogue among stakeholders on local governance for the UBC campus/UEL. This attempt was unsuccessful. Non-confidential letters, reports, articles and other items written in connection with Metro Vancouver's attempt are available from this page.
In December 2012 and the first half of 2013, the question of forming a municipality was raised with UEL residents in three well attended town hall meetings. The attendees overwhelmingly supported the proposal for the UEL to be incorporated as a municipality. Accordingly, in November 2013 the Chair of the UEL's Community Advisory Council wrote to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to request that the Ministry sponsor and fund an incorporation study for the UEL. To assist the Minister in deciding whether to agree to the request, the Ministry engaged Ken Cameron to prepare a background report. Mr. Cameron has a long history of involvement in local government matters. As of August 2014, there has been no response from the Minister to the CAC's request.