New body fights Maiden’s Cove ‘gentrification’

“Developments can happen but not at the cost of reinforcing a divided city which will be economically exclusive to its own residents.”

These are the words of Maiden’s Cove for All (MCA) co-founder, Gary Stewart.

The organisation was established on June 22 with a mission to stop the proposed development of Maiden’s Cove.

MCA believes that the development will exclude economically marginalised residents from across Cape Town from enjoying the natural beauty of Maiden’s Cove.

The City sold the piece of land between Clifton and Camps Bay to private developers in September last year.

Developers plan to build among other things, a hotel and a block of apartments.

In April, the Bungalow Owners’ Association (BOA) filed an application with the Western Cape High Court to have the City’s decision reviewed and set aside.

MCA supports the application and is planning to intervene in BOA’s application.

“We formed this organisation because we couldn’t intervene in the BOA’s application in our individual capacity,” said the member of the NGO, Janey Ball.

Mr Stewart said there seems to be a pattern from the City of letting public open space fall into disrepair and using that as an argument to get the developer to take over the space.

“We find this problematic because it takes away the nature of what makes Cape Town what it is. The Maiden’s Cove is a precious space that is open to everyone and historically been utilised by people of colour.

“The City by either commercialising or gentrifying it, is taking it out of the hands of the broader Cape Town community,” said Mr Stewart.

He said that this was essentially economic apartheid and it would only be accessible by the wealthy.

The organisation said they want a correct public participation process where the City would include the voices of those who use the space.

Mr Stewart said when the City opened a public participation process on the matter, it only approached nearby residents and excluded the historic users across the city.

He said people come from as far as Ceres and Atlantis.

Ms Ball agrees. “The formal public participation process had not broadly included the communities that use the space,” she said.

She said the City called a public meeting at the Civic Centre in September 2015 and invited residents to come and hear the plans for Maiden’s Cove, but because it was a designed vision, people didn’t realise that it was going to the tender document.

“When we speak to the people who actually use the space, they either don’t know about the plans or they think they will get a wonderful coastal urban park,” said Ms Ball.

In its intervention application to an already existing application by BOA, MCA members said they plan to fight for community access and fairness. The organisation said they will fight for the space to remain accessible and open to all of Cape Town and hear what the communities want.

They said with the assistance of human rights activist and former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs as the group’s patron, they’re hopeful.

An attorney representing the BOA, Richard Summers, said any initiatives by concerned groups, communities or citizens to engage in evaluating the merits of the City’s decisions regarding the Maiden’s Cove site were welcomed.

“Any involvement that highlights the broader public interest at stake in this case is important.

“It is critical that the broader public and the communities that have historically used the site appreciate the significance in the City’s decisions,” said Mr
Summers.

He said the entire decision-making process relating to the Maiden’s Cove site appeared to have been rushed and, as a result, several issues were not considered in appropriate detail.

He said the City’s decision to privatise and develop a Provincial Heritage Site and part of the coastline ought to be of serious interest to concerned members of the public.

The fight for Maiden’s Cove will remind many residents of another civic battle not too long ago to save the Sea Point promenade from development.

It was one Ms Ball was all too familiar with being among the people at the forefront of the Seafront for All (Seafa) campaign to prevent the luxury development from going ahead and robbing residents from across Cape Town of a prime space for leisure.

Millions of rands later, the plans were finally dumped in 2012.