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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How local politicians navigate interests and institutions responsible for land use : the case of Vancouver’s Langara Golf Course Kropp, Kaelen Arthur


With the growth of urban populations and development in major Canadian cities, local governments face increasing challenges in determining how best to regulate public space and navigate competing pressures associated with land use. However, despite its importance, the dynamics influencing local politicians’ decisions regarding land use, particularly in the context of municipal golf courses, remain understudied. This thesis addresses this research gap by investigating the case of Langara Golf Course in Vancouver, British Columbia. The golf course, a 114-acre city-owned facility, has become the centre of a contentious debate, sparking intense deliberations by local politicians on exploring alternative land uses. Employing a mixed-method approach, this study combines in-depth interviews with five local politicians and comments from 30 local politicians during the 2018-2020 deliberation period. The integration of qualitative and quantitative content analysis techniques reveals five key themes that influence local politicians' decisions regarding municipal golf course land use: (1) partisan affiliation, (2) equity considerations, (3) environmental factors, (4) economic factors, and (5) governance institutions and systems stabilizing municipal golf courses. The findings underscore the significant influence of partisan affiliation on shaping decisions regarding municipal golf course land use, showing that conservative politicians are more inclined than their progressive counterparts to seek to maintain them. Moreover, they shed light on the role of local governance structures and systems, revealing that the at-large electoral system in Vancouver discourages local politicians from seriously considering alternative land uses for recreational sites like Langara Golf Course. In response to these findings, this thesis introduces a new framework for understanding how local politicians navigate interests and institutions responsible for land use from either a systemic or localized approach. The systemic approach emphasizes municipal golf courses as part of a larger parks and recreation portfolio, while the localized approach focuses on site-specific factors and the needs of the immediate community nearby. By situating golf courses within the broader context of urban governance and public administration research, this thesis constitutes an early effort to understand political decision-making in managing public spaces and recreational amenities in large and diverse cities.

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