UBC cancels Wesbrook basketball court project

UBC Properties Trust recently withdrew a development permit application for a basketball court located in the Wesbrook Place neighbourhood.

The proposed court would have been located along Webber Lane adjacent to Brockhouse Park. UBC’s decision — which was announced on November 17 — came at the request of the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA) Board, who cited concerns raised by neighbouring residents.

UBC declined to comment further on the decision.

A public open house event — scheduled for November 23 — where UNA residents could have given their feedback on the proposed project was cancelled as well.

UNA Board of Directors Chair Richard Watson explained that the basketball court was one of four community works projects that were approved by the UNA Board to be investigated further and had not yet been greenlit.

“Those four projects were approved to proceed until we could get enough information [and] until we could find out if they were worthy to be submitted to the City of Vancouver,” Watson said.

Prior to the decision, posters had been seen in the Wesbrook area warning residents of the upcoming project. The posters cited issues regarding noise, the decline in property value and the dangers that teenagers playing basketball may present to children in the nearby area.

During the UNA Directors’ meeting, a group of three residents dominated the discussion, highlighting these concerns. According to Watson, the group became demanding that “the project cease and desist.” At the conclusion, three of the four board members present agreed with the demands, passing a motion to conclude the project.

While Watson agreed there were legitimate concerns, he felt the decision to pass a motion to end the project was not necessary at that moment, as a final decision had not yet been made in regards to the court’s construction.

“I believe the Board could have taken their time on this, they could have said, ‘Let's wait until December [when] we get all the information’.”

Erik Tristan, a law student at UBC, expressed disappointment over the Board’s decision. “It’s difficult to find an open hoop on campus since the sport is so popular,” Tristan said. And while residents expressed concerns of around safety, Tristan noted that Wesbrook could “benefit from having a communal space for people to meet each other and interact.”

Proponents of basketball courts have argued that parks containing courts have actually been associated with lower rates of violent and property crime, while not showing any evidence of generating more noise than an average playground. And while courts can bring an increase in disorder crime, such as vandalism or noise complaints, they can also strengthen community. A study at the University of Arkansas found that “pick-up basketball serves as a bonding agent to strengthen social ties within a given community.” It is this sentiment that a removed underline over space community petition cites, as community members attempt to push back against what they feel is a vocal minority.

Watson notes, however, that not all the complaints expressed factored into the decision, and that there were ways to design “a court that works around those concerns.”

The project was also subject to financial limitations, with only $600,000 available for the four projects. “The Board was going to have to make some decisions anyways, in regards to costs,” Watson added.

The good news for basketball enthusiasts is that the project is not dead, with the subcommittee assigned to the project tasked with going back to the drawing board. Watson remains positive.

“I still hope to get a basketball court.”