Uproar over Lion Street proposal

Residents are upset about the scale of this proposed luxury development in Lion Street in Bo Kaap.

Bo-Kaap residents are up in arms over the latest proposed development, which they say will impact on the heritage of the area.

This comes just a few days after a public meeting was held to discuss concerns over the number of developments in the area.

Just last week, Bo-Kaap was also placed on the list of the most endangered heritage sites in the country by the Heritage Monitoring Portal.

Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, said they were deeply concerned by the number of developments in the area that were threatening heritage. He said this was the main reason for organising a public meeting last month.

Mr Shaboodien added that there were several concerns relating to the development at 40 Lion Street. He said that traffic congestion, for example, would be significantly affected as it was a single way street. “Our concern is the heritage status of the Bo-Kaap. The future generation of the Bo-Kaap is being ignored,” he said.

He said that one of the things that could be done to protect the area was to declare it a heritage site, but this has not been done yet. “It is disastrous. It is total disregard by the developers as well as council. We are also not happy with the consultation that has been done. It is blatant disregard and all about greed.”

The ratepayers also called on the City of Cape Town to implement the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone, which they say has been stalled for two years.

Jana Kolodziej, who lives in Lion Street, said she received a letter about the development dubbed 40 on L, which is being developed by Blok, towards the end of November. Objections for the latest development in the area close today, Thursday December 14.

Ms Kolodziej said she was very concerned about the number of developments in the area. “I appeal to the government to put policies in place which protect the less wealthy from being sidelined in the name of profit again and again and genuinely foster an inclusive inner city.”

In her letter of objection to the development, she further stated: “The proposed development has zero relationship to the street. A 3m high and half metre long retaining wall creates a barrier between its future residents and the street. The style of the development is typical for the Atlantic seaboard where residents enter and leave the building via boomed entrances or huge concrete ramps. This is entirely alien to Bo-Kaap.”

Another resident, Nemone Bieldt, also objected to the development. She said she had lived in the area for more than 25 years, her daughter was also born and raised there. In her objection letter, she said: “As residents, we were not consulted about these proposals. This development has been brought to our attention by our neighbours in Lion Street. I wish to strongly object to the two departures, which have been advertised for comment.

“The development bears no relation to the low-scaled, single and double storied heritage houses and the gentle streetscapes of Bo-Kaap. It is an alien invasion into a vulnerable and unprotected community.”

Jacques Stoltz, co-founder of the Heritage Monitoring Portal, said the area had been placed on the list due to its intangible heritage”.

“This intangible heritage is largely premised on the cultural, religious and social traditions of the historic resident community. If this community no longer calls Bo-Kaap home, an important heritage – that we believe is of national significance – will be lost. In addition, the City of Cape Town is perceived to be following a pro-development agenda that ignores the significant built qualities of the Bo-Kaap.

“Developments that encroach on the cultural landscape of the Bo-Kaap are being erected that ignore the existing grain, scale, rhythm of the historic townscape of the Bo-Kaap.”

Mr Stoltz said while declaring Bo-Kaap a national heritage site may take some time, there were things the community could do to protect the area’s heritage. Businesses need to understand the cultural context of the community in which they operate. Adopting codes or even informal business practices to respect the context will go a long way. Tourism in particular can take steps to support local entrepreneurs and businesses, for example the use of locally owned eateries, homestays or tourist guides and so on to make visitors aware of sensitivities such as religious considerations.

“The challenges that face the Bo-Kaap community require a multi-stakeholder approach involving the authorities (all spheres), community structures, the heritage community, the business community, property owners, investors, the tourism community and so on. The authorities should be spearheading these efforts, but it seems as if this is not the case and that they have left it to civil society to fill the vacuum.”

The Atlantic Sun asked the City of Cape Town why Bo-Kaap had not been included in the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone yet, but they had not responded to our query by the time this edition went to print.

The developers, Blok, declined to comment when asked about the concerns of the residents.