Parked off

Small businesses in Sea Point have complained about the parklet in Main Road.

Local businesses have complained about the parklet in Sea Point Main Road, saying they are concerned that it will hurt them if it is still in place come summer.

Blok, the development company behind the parklet initiative, which is supposed to encourage the use of public space, applied to have the parklet remain in place at least until the end of the year. But small businesses in the area, have complained that it takes up valuable parking space that is already at a premium. But Blok says the parklet is coming down after having occupied a prominent space on Sea Point Main Road for a year.

Paul Jacobson, of Vondis Pet Store, has been in the area for more than 10 years. He says the small businesses in the area rely on local customers who use their own vehicles. “With all the developments and buildings going up it is making it even more difficult to accommodate our clients. Our clients are already struggling with the shortage of parking,” he said.

“We’ve been loyal to this area. We’ve been here for 15 years. Most of us smaller retailers find it hard to cover expenses. I can’t understand how one business should benefit at the expense of others.”

Mr Jacobson added that there were many small businesses in the area which were being affected. “It’s us small guys that survive on daily purchases.

“For us it feels like the parklet is being utilised for marketing and it comes at a huge expense to us.”

He said the businesses had been very patient for a year. “To ask for approval for a further extension into Christmas time is unfair.”

He said the biggest danger was that clients would choose to go to shopping centres where parking was more convenient. “That will kill Sea Point,” said Mr Jacobson.

Mr Jacobson added that the most important thing that the business owners wanted from the City, was clarity on the matter.

Alan Bloch, owner of the Surf Connection shop in Sea Point, agreed with Mr Jacobson, saying that the small businesses in the area had not been properly consulted. “The rest of the businesses have been in the area for more than 20 years but we were never consulted.”

Mr Bloch agreed that the holiday season was very important for the small businesses in the area.

Grant Gibot, who owns a laundry and washing shop in the area, said he had never been given the opportunity to object to the parklet.

He also said small businesses paid the highest price for the lack of parking in the area. “If you look at high season, which is from December to January, that’s where most of our business comes from. I think it is unfair that parking spaces can be taken up for a year for something that is advertising.”

In response to Atlantic Sun’s request for comment on the complaints about the parklet, Lior van Embden, sales and marketing manager for Blok, said: “We strongly believe in getting people out into the street and communing with their neighbours, instead of either commuting alone in their car, or living insular lives (which a lot of us do). A project like the parklet encourages exactly that, and for this reason (among the many other positive influences) it has been a huge benefit to the Sea Point community.

“We had recognised that there was a complete lack of liberal public space where people could sit in a dignified manner along Regent Road, this being the primary reason for having the parklet. The number of people across the age and income spectrum that use it and benefit from it, speaks volumes.”

“It has had a resoundingly positive impact on the community.

“The parklet has provided shade, shelter, a place to rest and free wi-fi to members of the community that otherwise would not have had this. It has offered a place for people to gather, it has created a lot of conversation, and it has made people rethink public urban space and how it is used – which was always our ultimate objective,” she added.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for Transport, said his department had received a petition calling for the removal of the parklet.

Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, gave Blok until the end of September to canvass support from those parties who signed the petition, failing which the parklet would have to be removed.

“There is a high demand for on-street parking in the Cape Town central business district and the adjacent suburbs, such as Sea Point, during business hours. For this reason the City charges parking tariffs to ensure a high turnover of parking bays which are very valuable to businesses and clientele alike.

“That said, parklets in general take up one or two parking bays only and it should not affect local businesses, in particular given the proximity of more short-term parking in the wider area.”

He added that the purpose of a parklet is to provide for a space within the urban environment where office workers or commuters can sit down for a few minutes to socialise, have lunch, or relax.

“The challenge for all of us is in finding a balance between the need for on-street parking and the need for human-friendly spaces where city workers can have a few minutes of reprieve. Cities around the world are striving for environments that are more people friendly, as opposed to being designed to focus/cater for the needs of those who travel in private vehicles only. Cape Town is also striving in achieving that balance – partly by providing opportunities for innovation (such as parklets) and by providing walkways and cycle lanes for those who do not commute in private vehicles or use road-based public transport.”

Ms Van Embden concluded: “It was a pity there were a few members of the community who were opposed to the parklet have been given preference over the many people that supported us. Our petition had well over 500 signatures from individuals and businesses that were in support of the parklet staying.”