UBC to blame for hospice controversy

University agreed to a noble idea without thinking where they would put the building


I just returned back to Vancouver from a week in Montreal for a journalism conference, and saw that inexplicably, my university was right in the middle of a national controversy over hospices, million dollar condos, “Chinese values,” and a whole lot of misinformed opinion.

Allow me to quickly summarize a debate that’s actually gone on for over two years, which a lot of people are johnny-come-lately to: In 2008, UBC agreed to hold a hospice on campus. It would house six to twelve people, other groups would pay for the construction, maintenance and operation of the building, and all the university would have to do is commit the space—provided that appropriate land be found.

And that’s where the problem comes in. Last year, after much deliberation, UBC thought that the best place for a hospice would be . . . right beside student residences. Not to mention a nude beach that was also quite close. Oh, and it was a first-year residence.

For whatever reason, planners did not appreciate that this spot would be less than ideal for all involved, but after students complained and campaigned, in public and behind the scenes, UBC changed their mind and decided to scrap the plans.

You can see where this is headed.

After another year of consultation, the university has found a new place, with which came new complainants, which resulted in UBC deferring a decision yet again.

Leaving aside my personal quibble that the national media raced to this story because it was laden with millionaires and allusions to ethnic values, yet didn’t give a hoot when students were involved, where should blame actually fall? You can say that the condo owners should just accept the hospice. It’s easy to complain about them. But a lot of this is due to UBC (or more accurately, the real estate agents who sell the property) being less then honest with what landowners are getting into. Yes, you get views of the mountains, Pacific Ocean, and amazing sunsets, but there’s a catch.

For example, this is a 12th floor two-bedroom suite overlooking the North Shore at UBC. It costs $1.6 million. The description makes no mention of the fact it is less than 50 metres away from a student residence of three 17-storey apartments, often filled with parties.

Or why don’t we look at a property for sale at Promontory, the site of the protests by residents. Again, $1.6 million. Does it even mention it’s on a university campus, and in fact right next to a football stadium? No. Should it?

There are many, many more examples of UBC selling land without explaining to landowners what they might be in for, who then inevitably complain, but I’ll stop there. The point is, they promise prospective condo owners world class views, a sustainable university town, and a certain amount of tranquility for their million-plus dollar apartments. They promise students a life in residence that will allow them to  do the things one anticipates they will when they go off to university for the first time. And they’ve promised the Vancouver Hospice Society that they’ll build provide an area somewhere on this land that won’t interfere with either of these things and be “predictably peaceful.”

What this comes down to, more than anything else, is UBC trying to do too many things with a land too densified, too meant for the purpose of teaching young adults, and already too paralyzed by competing interests. It may well be that because of this the hospice will not be built, and the finger will be pointed at rich Chinese landowners or beer-chugging students. In actuality, the only finger to be pointed should be at the university itself.

Related: UBC shouldn’t cede to superstition

Photo: Aerial shot of UBC campus, courtesy of UBC public affairs.


UBC to blame for hospice controversy

  1. Yes, one has to wonder whether building a Hospice directly across from Thunderbird, an outdoor sports and rock concert venue, is the most peaceful location they can find. The events held there are heard all over campus.

    One reason for the outrage of the Promontory building residents is that they were not informed by UBC this location was under consideration for a new building until the beginning of a very brief consultation process that opened days before the media got involved this month.

    This is a matter of local politics. There is actually plenty of land where UBC can develop the St. Johns Hospice. It is not a matter of the Hospice not being built, but finding a suitable location on the campus.

    The Promontory building seems to have been marketed with an eye on Asian buyers. I can only guess that is why it doesn’t have a 4th floor, because the number 4 is associated with death and bad fortune for some Asians. I don’t know if it has a 13th floor, a floor which many western hotels/apartment building skip for associations with bad luck (which are much less firmly rooted in western culture than concerns related to death in Asian cultures). Apparently the developers, and I assume by association UBC, respected Asian cultural values when it came to marketing. Let’s see if their respect for the culture of the people they have attracted here goes beyond that.

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  3. Both the Macleans article and the Jan 16 writer are right on. UBC has put little thought into the location for the hospice; it should not be by noisy students or the Thunderbird stadium, and they should respect the values of cultural communities living in Vancouver; especially at UBC which is a multi-cultural community.
    On a personal level, I would not wish to be in a hospice close to Thunderbird stadium; and would do everything I could to avoid it. Perhaps redeveloping something closer to the hospital might be more appropriate; put that parking garage underground and put a hospice on top!
    Any other ideas???

  4. Will locating a Hospice on Stadium Drive impact the use of Thunderbird Stadium for sports and concerts?

    • Well, concerts don’t actually happen at Thunderbird Stadium anymore, in part because of the constant noise complaints from residents who (willingly) moved into the surrounding area. But football and rugby games still regularly happen there, and yes, I imagine there would be some concerns there as well.

  5. I should add that UBC has extended the consultation period to get feedback from the local community.

  6. Excellent essay. This spells out the feelings of majority of the Asian people living at the Hawthorn Place. Most of them do not know English very well and they are forced to keep their mouth shut.This renders the public do not know about what they feel. They are not cold-blooded and they are very good people.General public’s comments are not fair,and they are xenophobic, racist or even discriminative, hatred of the rich etc. They do not understand the facts and situation and have pleasure derived from another’s misfortune,to build the hospice at our backyard. This will affect the harmony of our society and i don’t like to see that happen.

  7. What a load of craps! How they carry themselves in public is an accurate portrayal of their cold-bloodedness and selfishness. No amount of damage control and orchestrated PR efforts will change a xenophobic group in to sainthood. They are the most vocal, loud, obnoxious new comers that you meet in public places and read in the English and Chinese forums. Good try with the “me-no-speaky-much-english”. Anyone can see through the clown who can’t write proper English, yet trying to pass as a caucasian – to fool the non-whites? You know who you are, CLOWN.

    Bingo, you nailed it – building a hospice in your “backyard” is a misfortune, not NIMBYSM.
    “They do not understand the facts and situation and have pleasure derived from another’s misfortune,to build the hospice at our backyard. “

  8. you point is well taken people have a right to oppose to things that affect them whether their reasons are valid is a matter of debate not ridicule.
    many public buildings serve our community and carry noble purposes but do you want live upstairs or downstairs from a hospice?

    UBC has plenty of lands they go for dense development because it is more profitable to do so

  9. “UBC has plenty of lands they go for dense development because it is more profitable to do so”. SO? Why wouldn’t a landowner do something that was more profitable and legal? If they did anything less people would cry how they waste opportunity.

    This article blames the realtors. Really? So the buyer has no due diligence requirement to verify the facts and suitability of a potential purchase? If one is so clueless as to buy a site unseen or, worse, see it and not notice a stadium or student residences then they deserve what they get. How can a realtor, or anyone, anticipate what every possible purchaser might do with a property and disclose all possible pitfalls? Answer; they can’t. It falls on the purchaser and their agent to do the work of determining suitability. That’s like expecting someone selling a car to disclose that if you were to drive it into a lake it won’t turn into a boat. You expect a buyer without brain damage will look at the car, investigate the model and realize what it can be used for. You buy a property for a specific use then do your damned homework and don’t blame the seller. Face it, a guy selling you his house isn’t going to tell you his neighbours throw loud parties and that is why he is moving and there is nothing unethical about not volunteering that info. It is different if he is asked and lies. Caveat Emptor and do your due diligence.

    As for complaining about “death” being nearby, do these same condo residences have a rule immediately evicting any dying resident so as not to offend the superstitions of the rest of the building? Do they avoid pressing “4” on their phones? Let’s see how far they take these “sensitivities” and then we can judge whether or not this is about “cultural sensitivities” or just about protecting resale values.

    Death is the price of life. The people in that hospice might be people who have lived here for some time and contributed to the country. Who are these self-proclaimed “new immigrants” to tell them where they can and can’t go to live out their remaining days? Especially on land they don’t own.

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