UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sharing contested space : participation in the planning of UBC’s University Boulevard area Whitelaw, Peter


Rooted in democracy, the field of public participation has a long history and continues to evolve. In- the last fifty years, a huge number of approaches have been created to involve the interested community in decision making. Most recently, contingent strategies and deliberative techniques have drawn the attention of practitioners; so too has the systematic evaluation of participatory processes. The goal of this thesis is to take advantage of these recent developments by building and testing an evaluation framework for public participation that is principled, robust, and responsive to different points of view. A comprehensive, contingent evaluative framework is developed based on recent community involvement literature and applied to the University Boulevard Neighbourhood Planning process at the University of British Columbia (UBC). For each criterion in the framework, data was collected from interviews, documents, media reports, and participant observation, and triangulated to maximize objectivity. Combining the results for each criterion led to broader conclusions, recommendations for UBC, and lessons for evaluators. Overall, UBC staff responsible for the consultation process with the community put many of the right elements in place: the process was representative, inclusive,, and informative, and was flexible when challenged. However, staff lacked commitment to adopted planning policy and faced time pressure, encouraging them to limit the influence of the community in order to obtain approval quickly. The evaluation of implementation showed that the process was not a credible attempt to involve community members in making planning decisions, and highlighted significant issues with governance of planning at UBC. At the end of the day, the process was only marginally successful, failing to meet many internal goals and meeting few broader social goals despite the eventual approval of a plan for the area. UBC should give the interested community more influence, and enhance accountability, transparency and objectivity if they are to improve results from planning processes. Overall, the evaluation framework was appropriate to the case study and could be applied elsewhere. Evaluators should be aware of constraints from resources, timing, and access to information in applying the model, and should develop a clearer understanding of the links between contextual factors and process characteristics if they are to improve on this method.

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