Disputed block gets approval

An impression of the proposed development

Sea Point residents have reacted with shock and disappointment to the approval of a new development in Sea Point of which a fifth will be earmarked for affordable housing.

Despite objections from residents last year, the Municipal Tribunal Planning (MPT) approved the proposed 18-storey development in Sea Point on Tuesday March 19.

Developer, the Berman Brothers Group, applied to the City of Cape Town’s MPT to develop a 60m tall residential building at the intersection of Main and Kloof Road.

Residents from Sea Point to Fresnaye objected to this application in October last year, stating that the proposed development would not fit in with the character of the area and its size would add to traffic congestion. They said such a development in the area would pave the way for further developments of this nature.

However, a town planning consultancy company, Nigel Burls & Associates, that represent the developer, argued that the proposed building was consistent with other buildings in the area such as Pavilion Place and the Towers. They argued that this was a unique site and it deserved a special architectural treatment (“Plans for 18-storey block,” Atlantic Sun, October 11, 2018).

The proposed development is to have approximately 952m² of business premises and 140 residential units. The proposal allows for the provision of 28 inclusionary housing units, equating to 20% of the total number of residential units and the tenants in the units will have the same access and amenities to everything as other tenants.

The City planners’ initial position was to oppose the application primarily because of the height – the proposed development towers surrounding buildings in the immediate vicinity. However, Ndifuna Ukwazi disagreed with this position, arguing that the city requires dense, high-rise, and inclusive buildings across well-located areas to provide for affordable housing and to address spatial inequality and inverse densification.

The MPT found favour with these submissions and approved the development application and added a proviso that the City’s planners should return to the MPT with wording for a condition that will ensure that the inclusionary housing component can be secured.

In effect, 28 new apartments, each between 35m² to 39m², will be reserved for rental to households whose monthly income is less than R18 000.

This was described as a victory by Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City.

The activist non-profit organisation said although the development did not provide access to families on very low incomes such as domestic workers and carers, it does set precedent and gives hope to those who wish to see every new development include a fair proportion of affordable housing that changing business as usual is possible.

They stated: “We are happy that private property developers are proposing inclusionary housing but, they must make it accessible for the poor and working-class people. The City must do its job and impose conditions on developers in order to advance spatial justice. Now, we want the MPT to impose conditions that lock affordable housing down in very specific terms.”

The Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association’s planning committee have vowed to appeal the decision to approve the development application. “The main reason for the appeal is that the proposed 18-storey building runs counter to the City of Cape Town’s own spatial planning, zoning, and urban management policies and frameworks that have been developed and adopted after extensive consultation,” it said.

The committee said it supports genuine social inclusionary housing efforts and that the appeal is not connected to that issue at all.

“Rather, the SFB is of the view that inclusionary housing can and should be accommodated within the existing urban development and planning frameworks and looks forward to supporting the City’s efforts in this regard once a proper and well-considered inclusionary housing strategy and policy is in place,” it said.

Ward 54 councillor Nicola Jowell said she was disappointed by the MPT’s decision. She said the application received numerous objections from residents, ratepayer associations and the previous ward councillor.

“The departmental report on the application also stated without ambiguity that the application for departures should be refused. The MPT has overturned the department decision on the matter and we need to urgently be advised as to the rationale for this.

“I will be petitioning Mayco member Marian Nieuwoudt as well as the executive mayor Dan Plato to investigate and will support an appeal on this decision,” she said.