Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Petition to save trees in UBC parking lot slated for redevelopment surpasses 17,700 signatures

While new trees will be planted, the issue focuses on the loss of mature trees

An online petition calling for trees in a UBC parking lot to be saved has over 17,700 signatures and continues to grow.

The trees are on University Endowment Lands leased to Carey Theological College, which operates on the UBC campus with 999-year lease on land at the corner of Wesbrook Mall and Iona Drive. The trees in question are on land currently used as a gravel parking lot.

Su Wang's home faces that parking lot; over the past few years, she's watched the lot not just be used for parking cars, but as a corridor for small animals as they move about the campus. Integral to that are the mature trees, says Wang, a recent graduate with a master's degree in genetics.

However, the future of those trees may be short, as Carey College is looking to develop the land; two buildings are planned, a 4-storey mixed institutional-residential building and a 6-storey residential building to be used for student housing. The 6-storey building is to be built on the lot.

Unhappy that the mature trees may be lost, she started a petition.

"For me right now it's about saving these trees and making sure UBC is on the frontier of protecting the environment," Wang says, noting that in the decade she's lived at UBC she's seen a marked decrease in the amount of greenery on campus.

"For me this is the key thing because every single day I see the animals that live here and I see these trees and I see how these trees impact the environment," she adds.

She's taken the petition around to her neighbours and spread it online, where she's seen support from across Vancouver and further abroad.

Carey College plans to be environmentally sensitive says the school's president Rev. Colin Godwin, PhD. While the development will see around 31 trees cut down, the plan is for 68 new trees to be planted.

"We're all for our local ecosystem," he says. "We think at the end of this project it's going to be better than it is now."

He notes the development will bring 132 new units for students on the UBC campus; while Carey College is independent from UBC, it provides housing for students at UBC (something they've done since 1960).

Wang understands trees will be added to the lot but says it's not equivalent to what's being taken.

"It's not just about the number, it's about how old they are and the impact older trees have on the environment," she says.

The exact age of the trees is a point of contention between the two sides. Wang believes there are several maples that are around 100 years old and a cedar tree over 150 years old, but the development's project manager Paul Williams says an arborist hired for the project estimates the maples are closer to 50 years old, with a maximum age of 60. The western red cedar is older, but likely around 65 years. A core sample has been taken, but the analysis hasn't come back yet.

Williams notes archival photos that up.

"We're talking about a 6-storey building on a gravel parking lot," he says. "We respect nature's inhabitants, but this is a gravel parking lot."

Wang is hoping the number of signatures on the petition will sway the plan, and hopes to see supporters sign up to attend a virtual public open house on the subject on Feb.16

"I feel touched that people could look at these few trees and realize perhaps this initially is about these trees," she says. "But perhaps we should be thinking about how development proposals should be thought about."

A decision on a development permit, which would give the project the go-ahead from UBC's campus and community planning department, is scheduled for March 9.