Objections to Bo-Kaap framework

Wale Street in Bo-Kaap is a vibrant place.

The City of Cape Town’s Council has approved the local spatial development framework (LSDF) for the Bo-Kaap.

The City says the LSDFs are the products of extensive collaboration between the City’s Urban Planning and Design Department, local communities, and interested and affected parties.

“Council’s approval of the LSDFs for the Bo-Kaap and District Six in particular, is a historical and momentous occasion for the communities from these areas. For the first time in Cape Town’s history, we now have plans to guide spatial development and land use on a local level for one of our oldest residential neighbourhoods, that being the Bo-Kaap,” said the City’s deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Eddie Andrews.

However, Osman Shaboodien, chairman of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, says that gentrification is a threat to the township.

“The main objection is the process of not getting back to the community with the final document. We express our disappointment because it will create suspicions on future interactions with the community. The document had some input from the community when it came to affordable homes, tourist network and benefits, control for the community, heritage and its importance both tangible and intangible, also the greatest threat is gentrification through destructive development as at 2015 and planning by the City,” said Mr Shaboodien.

Al Jama-ah councillor and former Bo-Kaap resident Shameemah Salie is also concerned about gentrification and the loss of the culture in the area.

“It’s a living heritage site and in this framework there’s aspects where they want to commercialise the area around the Tana Baru. So how much consultation is going into these plans and these ideas of coffee shops around the resting place of our deceased,” said Ms Salie.

“Another aspect is affordable housing which hasn’t really been answered. Will it be made available to people of the Bo-Kaap so that the culture can be maintained? There’s also the question of restoring the older houses as well as the question about the development of the quarry,” she said.

Below are the aspects that the LSDF considers for change:

  • Pedestrian-friendly environment: Enhancing pedestrian access and creating a walkable environment should be a priority. This can include wider sidewalks, well-defined pedestrian pathways, and traffic calming measures to ensure safety and convenience for pedestrians.
  • Limited vehicle access: Restricting vehicle access within the Bo-Kaap can help preserve its historic charm and reduce congestion. Implementing pedestrian-only zones, shared streets, or traffic-calming measures can help limit vehicular traffic while ensuring access for essential services and residents.
  • Heritage-focused architectural guidelines: Enforce architectural guidelines and building codes that respect and reflect the Bo-Kaap’s Islamic heritage. This can include guidelines on building materials, architectural styles, and colour palettes that are in harmony with the existing character of the neighbourhood.
  • Adaptive reuse and conservation: Encourage the adaptive reuse of existing buildings to preserve their historical significance. This approach allows for the integration of modern amenities while maintaining the neighbourhood’s unique character. Additionally, establishing conservation programmes to protect historically significant buildings and landmarks can help safeguard the Islamic heritage of the Bo-Kaap.
  • Mixed-use development: Promote mixed-use developments that balance residential, commercial, and cultural spaces. This approach can support a vibrant local economy while preserving the community’s social fabric. Prioritise developments that align with the heritage and aesthetics of the Bo-Kaap, such as small-scale businesses, artisanal shops, and cultural centres.
  • Community engagement and empowerment: Involve the Bo-Kaap community in the decision-making process to ensure that their voices are heard. Encourage community-driven initiatives, local entrepreneurship, and cultural events that celebrate the Islamic heritage and traditions of the neighbourhood.
  • Green spaces and public parks: Create well-designed public spaces and green areas that offer recreational opportunities and enhance the quality of life for residents. These spaces can also serve as gathering points for community events and celebrations.
  • Infrastructure upgrades: Improve the existing infrastructure, including utilities, drainage systems, and public transportation, to support the needs of residents and visitors without compromising the neighbourhood’s unique character.
  • Tourism management: Develop a sustainable tourism strategy that promotes responsible tourism practices and cultural exchange while minimising negative impacts. Encourage guided tours led by knowledgeable local guides who can provide accurate historical and cultural information about the Bo-Kaap.

The City says that the LSDF focuses on what the Bo-Kaap could look like in the future while also preserving the heritage, culture and way of living.

“Managing development within such a sensitive heritage area is sometimes a challenge. Given the need to encourage development while providing detailed guidance for dealing with heritage matters, the LSDF has been approved on condition that detailed heritage guidelines be developed and submitted to Council for consideration and approval,” said Mr Andrews.

People walking the streets of Bo-Kaap during a festival.