Many Capetonians know that taking a stroll along the Sea Point Promenade is one of the best things to do at the weekend or after a long day at work.
What many might not know is that it all could have been so different had it not been for a High Court case to protect part of the promenade from a commercial development. This was one of the many battles faced by Grace and Archie Pick during their more than 30 years of service on the Sea Point Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association.
The couple were honoured last week by the Sea Point community with a bench dedicated to them on the very site that they, along with others, fought so hard to protect. Grace Pick, 81, who was a member of the Sea Point Ratepayers’ planning committee as well as the Seafront For All group, said it was humbling to be recognised by the community. “We were thrilled. We’ve always worked together for the community. We came down from Zimbabwe in 1980 and we were both involved in civics there.”
Archie Pick added: “I felt that I did far less than Grace did. She is the one who did most of the work on the various portfolios.”
Mr Pick served as treasurer for the 34 years that they were part of the ratepayers’ association. “I supported Grace in all the work that she did and helped her as much as I was able to.”
Ms Pick said she had focused on preserving the environment and getting people to stick to property by-laws during her time at the helm of the planning committee. “I was interested to make sure that people did not overstep because that is just greed.”
One of her big battles was keeping the Sea Point Promenade a public open space – a struggle that went all the way to the High Court. The case in 2010 was fought by Seafront For All to protect the pool area of the promenade from developers who wanted to build a hotel, among other things, on the site. Many Sea Point residents gave up their own time and money, to fight the case.
“For the beauty of the beachfront to stay natural and open, it was vital,” said Ms Pick. “It was the most beautiful public open space and to see commercial development happening on the beachfront for me was an evil. I went to the most wonderful human being, Bennie Rabinowitz, who took up the battle.” Mr Rabinowitz, who was at the event last week, volunteered his services to the Sea Front For All committee.
“I feel like the public should always be aware that they can walk there to this day because of the result of a court case,” said Ms Pick.
“I don’t think people are aware of what it involved and what it meant. It was hard work, but we had a wonderful chairperson (in Mr Rabinowitz) and that has set the level for everybody.
“It doesn’t matter where anyone comes from, we’ve got the beachfront to enjoy and that is vital,” said Ms Pick.
But the battle to preserve open spaces, she warns, is far from over.
She is concerned by cases, such as Clifton, where the City of Cape Town is looking to sell public open space.
“I don’t know enough about it (the Clifton case) but it is a travesty to take public open space. Public space is sacred and the minute you start abusing that you’ve lost the Cape’s beauty.
“Open space belongs to the people. The people’s voice is nor being heard. If it is zoned as public open space what right does anyone have to ignore this?”
She is is worried about the number of developments springing up and the way that the area is changing.
Developers, she says, are getting departures far too easily.
“They are just pulling heritage homes down, and there appears to be no respect for anything of heritage a value.
“They are disappearing and I think it is greed. They are forgetting that heritage is what has made the Cape so special and what has attracted our tourists and investors.”
The battle to maintain public spaces, she says, is far from over and it is important for young people to take it up. She added that she always had a very good open door policy relationship with the staff at council.
Mr Pick, who is now 89, agreed. “Having reached the age that we have, although we don’t serve actively, we are still very interested and keep a watchful eye on what is going on.”
He said his wife was always very persistent with her work. “She was a bull dog that never let go. She kept at it until she got the right answer.”
Former Ward 54 councillor Jacques Webber, who was the keynote speaker at the event last week, thanked the Picks for their community work and said Ms Pick had “protected the Sea Point community and the Atlantic Seaboard in ways that no one could ever have imagined”.
Former Sea Point ward councillor Beverley Schäfer, who is now a member of the provincial legislature, said the couple had always ” kept me on my toes and asked those difficult questions for the right reasons”.
Seafront For all member Janey Ball, added: “through all the changes and transitions, Grace and Archie have been there looking out for our community’s interests. There are about 27 000 officials working for the City and I’d guess that 75 percent of them have heard of our Grace and Arch.”